Criminal charges

BC First Nations Justice Council — Indigenous Justice Centres
Indigenous Justice Centres offer culturally appropriate information, advice, support, and representation for Indigenous people.

You can get a lawyer to represent you in your criminal case if, after you were convicted, you would:

  • go to jail,
  • face a conditional sentence that would severely limit your liberty,
  • lose your way of earning a living, or
  • face an immigration proceeding that could lead to your deportation from Canada.

You can also get a lawyer to represent you if you:

  • have a condition that makes it impossible for you to represent yourself, such as a: 
    • physical condition,
    • disability,
    • mental or emotional illness, or
  • areIndigenous and the case affects your ability to follow a traditional livelihood of hunting and fishing.

You can get a lawyer to represent you, but not go to trial with you, if you:

  • have been charged and don’t face a risk of jail, or
  • face a risk of jail and have a higher household monthly income (see criminal early resolution cases).

If you’re facing serious and complex criminal charges and you have been denied legal aid but can’t afford a lawyer, you can make a Rowbotham Application. For more information, see If You Can’t Get a Lawyer for Your Criminal Trial: How to Make a Rowbotham Application.

You have the right to have your criminal trial conducted in French. Let your lawyer or the court know as soon as possible if you want your trial in French.

For more information or to apply for legal aid, call the Legal Aid BC Call Centre:


604-408-2172 (Greater Vancouver)
1-866-577-2525 (elsewhere in BC)

(Pacific Time)

Mon, Tue, Thu, and Fri — 9 am to 4 pm
Wed — 9 am to 2:30 pm


If you’re a young person charged with a federal offence, you’re entitled to (have a right to) legal representation. However, if you’re in the care of the Ministry of Children and Family Development (foster care), you must speak to your social worker to arrange for a lawyer.

If you’re a youth in BC who’s been arrested, you have the right to speak to a lawyer. You also have rights under the Youth Criminal Justice Act that apply before the police can question you or get a statement from you as part of their investigation. Find out about your rights.

Aboriginal legal rights — Gladue principles

If you identify as Aboriginal, you have rights under the Criminal Code to have Gladue principles applied to your case. For more information, contact the BC First Nations Justice Council.

First Nations/​Indigenous Court

In addition to your right to have Gladue principles considered, you may be able to have your bail or sentencing hearing in First Nations/​Indigenous Court.

For more information on First Nations/​Indigenous Court, see What Are First Nations/​Indigenous Courts?

Aboriginal Legal Aid in BC

Find out more about Aboriginal legal rights in BC, including First Nations Court, fishing/​hunting/​gathering, and child and family rights.