The Criminal Code of Canada provides that if certain criterion are met, the Crown may apply to have an accused designated as a “long term offender” or a “dangerous offender.” If successful, the Crown is then position to ask for a jail sentence beyond the range specified for the index offence in the Criminal Code. In many cases, the Crown will even seek an “indeterminate” sentence for the offender, where they remain in jail indefinitely. Thus, there is no process with higher stakes under the criminal than when the Crown seeks to designate a client as a “dangerous offender.”
Mr. Lewandowski has been counsel on fifteen dangerous offender prosecutions. This is an unprecedented amount of D.O. hearings, recognizing Canada has only around 280 dangerous offenders at any given time. By the time that a Crown contemplates a dangerous offender designation, an accused’s record is already substantial. The offender has likely spent significant time in custody prior to the last conviction. It must be recognized that tactically, the goal is not to “win” the hearing, but rather to mitigate the potential consequences. For example, taking a case that appears at first glance to be suitable for an “indeterminate” sentence, and having it lowered into the category of “determinate” sentence or “long-term offender” status may very well be the realistic goal.
The dangerous offender legislation provides the Crown with significant tools to gather historical artifacts that impugn the accused. Often, the Crown is able to gather records from a client’s youth, from kindergarten onwards. The school records can unfortunately offer the prosecutor with a treasure trove of violent behaviour with which to speckle the court record. In addition to this, historical records of time spent in youth detention facilities, counselling reports, probation records, parole notes also form a part of the prosecution arsenal. This, in addition to the transcripts of all previous convictions and prosecutions provide the Crown with a formidable arsenal of information to mount their case. All of the information is gathered with a view to demonstrating that a “pattern” of repetitive behaviour on behalf of the accused, that puts the public at future risk. In this respect, D.O. hearings are onerous, voluminous and complicated.
As the entire process becomes about risk assessment, D.O. hearings often focus on the evidence and opinions of forensic psychiatrists, who wield a battery of actuarial tools that are designed to assess risk. The cross-examination of these witnesses can be quite complicated. Mr. Lewandowski’s sub-practice with Consent and Capcity Board hearings has yielded the opportunity to cross-examine well over two hundred psychiatrists. This experience has proven invaluable when translated to forensic risk assessments, as similar tools are employed in the psychiatric domain.
Realistically most offenders who seek out Mr. Lewandowski’s legal guidance will not be anywhere near “dangerous offender” territory. It is important ro recognize that the firm is highly experienced the most complicated criminal litigation; there is no criminal case that we cannot handle.