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Before even speaking with a lawyer most clients worry if they can afford the cost of their defence. Hiring a criminal defence lawyer is not a cheap endeavour. Still, given the risks involved it is absolutely necessary. In most cases, it’s much more affordable to hire an experienced lawyer right after you are charged rather than trying to navigate the justice system on your own.

There are many factors that affect your defence attorney’s cost. Examining how billing works and what you can expect will help you have a better understanding of the costs of retaining a criminal defence lawyer.


The Law Society of Ontario suggests fees for senior criminal trial lawyers with 20 years of experience start at a rate of $350 per hour, while a newer lawyer with less than a year of experience starts at $165, but depending on the services and team involved, the range of fees can be much higher.

There is no simple answer to this question as many factors determine the cost of your defence. In general, the case complexity, the jurisdiction, the mode of trial and who you hire all help to determine the fees for criminal lawyers.

Case Complexity

The complexity of your case is one of the main factors in determining your fees. If you need a lawyer for a one-day trial on a simple charge, the costs will be much less than a long, drawn-out trial with multiple hearings and investigations involved. The more time spent on your case, the higher the fees tend to be. In many cases, having a lawyer right from the start may help you avoid further charges or even going to trial.

Other factors to consider are:

  • If the charges are likely to be dropped before the trial
  • It is likely you can negotiate a plea deal
  • If the trial will be in front of a judge alone or judge and jury
  • Is it an indictment or a summary conviction?
  • Will there be a preliminary hearing or discovery?
  • Are expert witnesses needed?
  • Is there a need for more evidence or investigation?

Mode of Trial

The mode of trial you select for your case can significantly impact your legal fees, but it is essential to understand the complexities of these decisions and make the right decision for your case. For example, you may have the choice between a trial by judge or a trial by jury – as a jury trial takes more time to resolve, a trial in front of a judge could save you some money.

You could also decide to have a preliminary inquiry before your trial to save time during the actual trial. Your lawyer can explain the benefits of these decisions and the impacts on your criminal defence lawyer cost.


Many lawyers based in Toronto will travel for cases in the surrounding area or even across Southern Ontario. One thing to keep in mind is that travel costs and mileage can add significantly to the costs of a case. If you are from outside of the GTA, but your trial is happening in Toronto, it may make more sense cost-wise to hire a criminal defence lawyer in Toronto.

The Experience of Your Lawyer

Who you hire and their level of knowledge and experience will affect the outcome of your case and your fees. A highly experienced criminal lawyer from an established firm will be more expensive than a newer lawyer with less experience. It is essential to understand the benefits and costs of hiring your lawyer so you can make the best decision for your case.

How Billing Works

Most lawyers charge a fee by the hour, or you can arrange a block fee or a fee per project. Many lawyers also offer a free consultation and payment plans to help their clients better afford their services.

Block Fees – This is a fee that considers the entire management of a case at a single price. It gives clients clarity on what their defence will cost and can be helpful to resolve cases more quickly.

Hourly Fees – Hourly rates help ensure that all costs related to a criminal defence case are covered as the case changes or evolves. The hourly rates are based on experience and the reputation of the lawyer.

Project Based – In some cases, lawyers or firms may hire out project-based lawyers to help with the case. This structure allows senior lawyers to handle the complicated matters of the case and delegate administrative and other tasks to less experienced staff.

If you or a loved one are looking for an experienced criminal defence attorney in Toronto, contact William Jaksa today. William Jaksa has over a decade of experience defending clients in Toronto. Contact him now for a consultation on your case.

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