What can the Criminal Law Project do for me?

If you have been charged with an offence, our volunteer law student caseworkers may be able to act as your agent (representative) in the Provincial Court of Alberta.


If we open a file for you, our volunteers can:


  • Give you legal information about your charge (for example, the maximum penalty and possible defences).
  • Appear with you in docket court/Case Management Office to speak to your matter (for example, to help you reserve plea and put the matter over to another date at your first appearance in court).
  • Request disclosure (the evidence the Crown Prosecutor has in relation to the charge) and review it with you.
  • Assist with applications to the Alternative Measures Program.
  • Negotiate with the Crown Prosecutor on your behalf (for example, to try to have charges withdrawn, or to negotiate a joint submission on sentence should you decide to plead guilty).
  • If you choose to plead not guilty, run your trial.
  • If you choose to plead guilty, speak to sentence (make submissions to the judge about your circumstances and how you should be sentenced).


All of our caseworkers act under the supervision of our advising lawyers.

Who can the Criminal Law Project help?

Student Legal Services cannot help everyone charged with an offence. Whether we can help you depends on your income and the nature of the offence.


You must prove that you meet our income guidelines before we can open a file or appear in court for you.  If Legal Aid would have represented you but rejected you solely because they believe the offence is too minor, we might be able to assist you. If you are not sure whether you meet our income guidelines, please feel free to contact us to discuss your situation.


If you are a University of Alberta student, we can represent you even if you exceed our income guidelines.


We can only assist individuals charged with summary conviction offences (including hybrid offences where the Crown is proceeding summarily) and regulatory offences.


We can also help individuals charged with an offence under the Child Youth and Family Enchancement Act.


We cannot represent you if we believe you face a realistic possibility of incarceration (jail or "house arrest") if you are convicted. If you are unsure whether your charge is too serious for us to handle, please call us to discuss your situation.


Some common criminal offences we handle include:


  • Assault.
  • Mischief.
  • Impaired driving, driving with a blood alcohol level over .08, and refusing to provide a breath sample.
  • Theft under $5000 (e.g. shoplifting).
  • Possession of stolen property.
  • Fraud, meal/transportation by fraud, and uttering a forged document.
  • Possession of a controlled substance (e.g. possession of marijuana).
  • Communication for the purpose of prostitution.
  • Failure to appear for a court date or for fingerprinting.
  • Indecent acts.
  • Causing a disturbance.
  • Obstructing a peace officer.
  • Section 810 Peace Bonds (criminal "restraining orders").


We also assist people charged with some regulatory (quasi-criminal) offences. For example, we may represent people charged with driving while unauthorized under the Traffic Safety Act, or with other traffic matters that are attached to a criminal charge that qualifies for our services. The Criminal Project is no longer able to assist individuals charged with driving without insurance under the Traffic Safety Act.  


We may assist people charged with certain offences under a variety of other federal and provincial laws, such as the Wildlife Act, Animal Protection Act, Child Youth and Family Enhancement Act, Emergency 911 Act, Protection Against Family Violence Act,  Provincial Offences Procedure Act, Petty Trespass Act and Gaming and Liquor Act. We can also help with some bylaw offences (for example, charges under the City of Edmonton bylaw that prohibits fighting in public).


We will not open a file under the following circumstances:


  • Where there is a realistic possibility of incarceration. If, based on your circumstances, there is a realistic chance you may receive a sentence of jail time or "house arrest," we cannot assist you.
  • Where the accused or complainant is under 18 years of age. If you are under 18, you have a right to Legal Aid and you should contact the Youth Criminal Defence Office. (The one exception where we may open a file is when a young person is charged with a non-criminal offence such as a traffic offence, and Legal Aid has refused to represent the young person.)
  • Where an individual has been charged with an impaired driving offence and the Crown is expected to seek greater punishment (i.e. jail time). This usually occurs when a person has already been convicted of another impaired driving offence within the last five years.
  • Where an individual is charged with a form of assault more serious than simple assault (e.g. assault with a weapon, assault causing bodily harm). Depending on the circumstances, we may or may not be able to handle a charge of assaulting a peace officer.
  • Where more than one person has been charged in relation to an incidient, and SLS is already representing one of the co-accused. If SLS is already representing your co-accused, we will not be able to open a file for you.
  • Where the charge is a traffic charge and there is a specified fine. We will not open files for speeding tickets (including photo radar tickets) or other minor traffic offences.


If we cannot assist you because the charge is too serious, we will refer you to Legal Aid. If we cannot assist you for any other reason, we will refer you to the Alberta Lawyer Referral Service.


We appear in Provincial Court in the following places:


  • Edmonton
  • Stony Plain
  • St. Albert
  • Sherwood Park
  • Fort Saskatchewan
  • Leduc
  • Morinville


If you are required to appear in court in another place, we are unable to open a file for you or appear on your behalf. If your court appearance is in Calgary, Student Legal Assistance of Calgary may be able to help you.

How to Open a File

You can apply to open a file with the Criminal Law Project at one of our regularly scheduled shifts. You must apply in person. We cannot open a file over the phone. Please see our locations and shift times for more details about where and when you can open a file.


No appointment is necessary, but it is a good idea to call ahead to see if we are able to help you.


When you come in to open a file, you should bring all of the information you have that relates to the charge against you. For example, you should bring all of the papers the police gave you (such as a ticket or promise to appear) and any information you have received from the Crown Prosecutor (such as any disclosure you have been provided).


You should also bring proof of your income, such as your most recent income tax Notice of Assessment, some recent pay stubs, or proof that you receive AISH.