Articling How To – Canadian Lawyer4Students

By: Simon Borys · February 28, 2012 · Filed Under Law Career, Law School, Law School Tips, Marketing/PR in Law · Comments Off 

Recently Omar Ha-Redeye and Simon Borys (that’s me) (both contributors to this blog) were interviewed by Michael McKiernan for Articling How To, an article in the Canadian Lawyer4Students magazine.  In it, Michael discusses how students can set themselves up for an articling position in the midst of this present articling crisis.

He talks about doing something to set yourself apart from the crowd by “thinking small” (Omar’s topic), “taking the initiative”, “knowing your options”, “embracing old technology”, and “embracing new technology” (my topic).

In terms of “thinking small”, Michael wrote:

Bay Street firms run their articling programs like a well-oiled machine and provide a large chunk of the available spots, so it’s no surprise that they’re front of mind for law school career counsellors, says Toronto lawyer Omar Ha-Redeye. But the 2011 Ontario call advises more students to think small. “I think for people who are going into litigation, smaller firms are better options. I was in court more than anybody I know. I was really thrown into the mix and was on my feet the whole time,” he says.

In terms of embracing new technology, Michael wrote:

In a competitive articling environment, you have to make yourself stand out. And the earlier, the better, according to Simon Borys, a second-year law student at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont., who has put a great deal of effort into building his online profile. “Everyone comes to the table with law degrees, so you have to demonstrate to future employers what you bring in addition. Online activities are a great way to showcase that,” he says.

Borys highlights his own history as a police officer on his blog, which he uses as a platform to link up with fellow students, senior practitioners, and potential future employers. He’s also active on Twitter and participates in online legal discussion groups. And it’s paid dividends, because he’s already secured a summer position at a criminal law firm, with a strong chance to return to complete his articles. “It’s been very well received and I’ve made lots of connections,” says Borys.

All of the things Michael discusses in this article are highly relevant to students currently seeking articling, especially considering the present scarcity of articling jobs.  It’s not enough in this day and age to come to the job market with just a law degree and your hand out and expect that someone will give you a job.  You don’t have to use new technology, like I do, but you have to do something!  Read Michael’s article and think about what might work for you.


Simon Borys is a law student at Queen’s University in Kingston.  He is also a former police officer and an an aspiring criminal lawyer.  His Blog, Simon Says, focuses on dispelling policing myths and demystifying the law.

LawFacts: Online Legal Advice from Legal Aid Ontario

By: Simon Borys · February 15, 2012 · Filed Under Criminal Law · 2 Comments 

By: Simon Borys; Cross Posted on Simon Says

Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) recently launched a website entitled LawFacts which is designed to provide information about the criminal justice system to people in Ontario.  (See the press release here.)  It will not provide you with specific legal advice about your particular situation, but it does have general information on:

  • Sentencing
  • Bail
  • Being a surety
  • Court orders
  • Diversion
  • Duty counsel
  • First appearances
  • Guilty pleas
  • Peace bonds
  • Types of sentences

In addition, it has some forms and checklists that people might find helpful, as well as a glossary of legal terms.  Some of the information on this website will be applicable to people outside Ontario (since much of the criminal justice system is governed by the Criminal Code – a federal statute), but some of it is unique to the way we do things in this province.

Concern has been raised among the criminal defence bar that LAO may be attempting to steer people towards duty counsel and towards early pleas with this endavour, rather than encouraging and enabling them to retain counsel (which would allow them to fully realize and enforce their Charter rights in the criminal justice process).  This is something that defence lawyers understand (as we all should) is necessary to (a) prevent wrongful convictions and (b) support a system that would accord everyone a maximal amount of procedural protection to ensure they are treated fairly.

LAO may well have a vested interest in pushing people towards duty counsel and early guilty pleas since it makes their job of disbursing limited legal aid funds to accused who need a lawyer easier.  However, even if this is true (and I don’t claim to know whether it is or not) I don’t think that invalidates the utility of a website like LawFacts.  I am of the opinion that the more educated people are the better they are able to make informed choices and enforce their rights, which in turn ensures that the system works properly for all.  In fact, this is one of the main philosophies behind my blog and writing about police related issues – to better equip the public to interact with police and the justice system in a more informed and educated way.

For those who do want to educate themselves, I would suggest you not stop at this website, but I think it can be a good start.  That being said, I think no amount of personal education is a substitute for a properly trained and experienced lawyer assisting you – be they privately retained or funded by Legal Aid, especially in criminal cases where the stakes are highest.

 

Simon Borys is a law student at Queen’s University in Kingston.  He is also a former police officer and an an aspiring criminal lawyer.  His Blog, Simon Says, focuses on dispelling policing myths and demystifying the law.

Do Your Driving Convictions Really Disappear After 3 Years?

By: Simon Borys · August 27, 2010 · Filed Under Criminal Law, Public Interest · 3 Comments 

Records of Convictions for Provincial Charges in Ontario

Do your driving convictions really disappear after 3 years?  Simon says, “No!”  Keep reading to find out more about how the government keeps provincial offence records and what happens to them after three years.

Background Information on Provincial Offence Records

First some background information on provincial records.  The Ministry of the Attorney General in Ontario keeps records of individuals’ convictions for all provincial charges, the most common Acts being the Highway Traffic Act (HTA), the Compulsory Automobile Insurance Act (CAIA), and the Liquor Licence Act (LLA).  However these records are kept on an antiquated system, known as ICON, and are not easily searchable by police officers in the course of their regular duties.  These records are primarily for the courts to maintain and use.  ICON records are kept longer than three years.

This means that police officers aren’t likely to know about your underage drinking or public intoxication tickets when they run your name, unless you are dealing with the service that issued you the ticket, then they will probably have record of it on their own computer system.

MTO Records of HTA and CAIA Charges

The Ministry of Transportation (MTO) also keeps a records system, known as PARIS (Plate and Registration Information System).  PARIS is accessed through the CPIC (Canadian Police Information Center) software, which is readily available to all police officers.

PARIS keeps track of individuals through their driver’s licence number and only deals with driving related provincial offences, namely Highway Traffic Act and Compulsory Automobile Insurance Act charges.  It also keeps records of any driver’s licence suspensions, regardless of what they were from (i.e. medical, unpaid fines, racing, criminal conviction, etc).  The PARIS record is what people are referring to when they speak of their “driving record”.

When a police officer runs (checks) your driver’s licence number, they will see your licence status and your convictions on PARIS, as well as any points you have accumulated from those convictions.  Police services in Ontario (with the exception of the OPP and MTO enforcement officers) only have access on PARIS to the last three years worth of convictions and demerit points (although points actually regenerate after only two years).

The Three Year Myth

The fact that most officers can only see the last three years worth of convictions, coupled with the fact that insurance companies usually only ask about your last three years, has led to the myth that driving convictions are wiped off your record after three years.  This is not the case!  PARIS keeps records of your convictions indefinitely, it’s just that most officers can’t see them.  The OPP and the MTO, however, can.  So remember this the next time you are asked if you’ve had any tickets in the past!

Simon Borys

From my blog: Simon Says, Category: Police Myths

Careless Driver Convicted After Boasting Online: Issues Surrounding Internet Statement Evidence

By: Simon Borys · August 10, 2010 · Filed Under Criminal Law, Evidence · 1 Comment 

From my blog: Simon Says, Category: Police and Law News.

CTV News: Careless Driver Convicted After Boasting Online

Issues Surrounding Internet Statement Evidence

The gist of the story is that Vladimir Rigenco, a 19 year old man from Vaughn, Ontario pled guilty to Careless Driving in a Provincial Court and received a six month driving prohibition, 1 year probation under the Provincial Offences Act, and a $1000 fine.  He was charged after he posted comments on a car enthusiast forum  about how he had driven his 2006 BMW M5S at speeds of more than 100 km/hr over the speed limit.

This case raises some interesting issues surrounding electronic “statement evidence” and the anonymity of the internet.  The issues were not brought before a court in this case, because it was resolved by way of a plea bargain and not a trial, but obviously the crown believed they had enough evidence to proceed with charges.

The primary issue that arises with electronic statement evidence (usually someone admitting or boasting of a crime on the internet or making threats against someone electronically) is that of identity.  Just because something originates from a specific account, does not mean that the registered owner or user of that account was the person at the keyboard when the statement was made.

It is a simple enough defence to say that other people than the registered owner have access to the account, either with permission or without.  In fact, in my opinion (and the opinion of most police officers I know and worked with), this defence is so common sense that it prevents an officer from forming reasonable grounds that the owner of an account is the one who committed the offence.

A parallel issue surrounding identity is how the actual identity of the real person who owns/uses an account is determined.  Most people don’t use their real names on their internet accounts and, even if they do, there is no mechanism in place to determine if someone inputting the name Simon Borys is actually the real Simon Borys.  (Would the real Simon Borys please stand up!?)

In order to determine the identity of the person behind an account, police usually have to write Production Orders for the companies that own the servers that host the website or forum in question to get the IP address that the statements originated from (unless they are publicly available).  They then have to write a Production Order for the Internet Service Provider of that IP address to determine the actual name and location of the registered owner of the account.

That still only gets them to the house or building the statements came from, which can assist with providing corroborative evidence if the police already believe it was Simon Borys who made the statements and the IP address is registered to Simon Borys’ father at the house Simon Borys lives at.  But there still might be a defence that it was someone else in the house who made the post, especially if it’s a public building or something like a student residence.

This type of investigation is time and resource consuming and does not even guarantee the identification of a suspect.  However, it can be useful when other investigative avenues exist.  In this case, if police had the address which the post originated from, they would have been able able to search Ministry of Transportation records for all the people residing at the house to determine if anyone there owns a 2006 BMW M5S.

A second issue of fundamental importance with respect to electronic statements is whether there is any corroborating evidence at all.  Someone can, and people often do, make false claims on the internet (or elsewhere) for any number of reasons.  In this case, perhaps Rigenco just wanted people to think he was cool.  The bottom line is that if there is no evidence other than a statement, I would suggest that is not sufficient evidence to lay a charge.

The belief that a statement alone is sufficient evidence, when taken to its logical extreme, ends in absurdity.  If I say I smoked marijuana can I be arrested for possession?  If I say parked in a no parking zone can I be given a ticket?  It’s just not logical to think that an unsupported inculpatory statement meets the threshold of reasonable grounds.  Where is the evidence?  I don’t know if there was additional evidence in this case, but the issue remains.

I hope that after reading this people have a little better understanding of the complexity and difficulty of internet related investigations and keep in mind that police are unlikely to undertake this type of investigation for all but the most serious offences.

Simon Borys

Can a police officer still give you a ticket if they’re not wearing their hat?

By: Simon Borys · May 4, 2010 · Filed Under Criminal Law · 2 Comments 

From my blog, Simon Says. Category: Police Myths


I don’t know how many times I’ve heard people say that a police officer can’t give you a ticket if they’re not wearing their hat or if they did, you can get out of it if you tell the justice of the peace this in court.  Well, Simon Says: WRONG!

I don’t know where this idea first came from, perhaps it’s true in some jurisdictions in the United States and people who watched too many episodes of Cops thought it was true here as well, but it’s not.  Nowhere in the Highway Traffic Act does it say anything about officer’s being required to wear their hats.

The only thing that even comes close to dealing with the appearance or dress of an officer is found in Section 216 (1), which deals with the power of an officer to stop a vehicle.  It says “A police officer, in the lawful execution of his or her duties and responsibilities, may require the driver of a motor vehicle to stop and the driver of a motor vehicle, when signalled or requested to stop by a police officer who is readily identifiable as such, shall immediately come to a safe stop.”

This just means that you have to stop your vehicle for an officer who is readily identifiable as an officer.  Even without the police forage cap, you can still readily identify them by their uniform, the flashes on their shoulders, and their duty belt, not to mention the usual presence of a police cruiser.  That being said, this section still has nothing to do with the issuance of tickets.

Now you know that it doesn’t matter if an officer is wearing their hat or not when they give you a ticket.  So don’t make a big deal of it with the officer and definitely don’t take your ticket to court with that as the only thing you have to say to the justice of the peace – you’ll just look like an idiot and annoy the JP.

Of course, if you just obey the rules of the road, you won’t have this problem at all :)