If you've received a summons, offence notice, or notice of conviction, there are many reasons to hire a qualified court agent. Perhaps you feel that the ticket is unjustified and wish to fight it, but don't have the time or savvy to prepare for trial. Perhaps you wish to seek a penalty reduction based on the circumstances of your case, but prefer not to miss work or brave the court house line-ups. Perhaps you were convicted in absence, and wish to have the conviction set aside. Whatever the case, having someone to guide you through the traffic court process can reduce stress, protect your driving record, and save you time and money.
In Alberta, a court agent may apply for the right of audience before a Justice of the Peace or Provincial Court Judge.
In determining whether to grant an agent the right of audience, the courts must consider various factors, including whether or not the defendant has made an informed decision to forego representation by counsel, and whether or not the defendant understands the significance of this decision.
Provided the right of audience is granted, a court agent is generally permitted to perform certain legal services, such as appearing in court and examining / cross-examining witnesses, on behalf of a defendant.
If the defendant is an individual, the following limitations apply:
- The Summary Conviction Court may require a defendant to appear personally.
- If you have been charged with summary conviction offence/s that, upon conviction, could result in a sentence of more than six months imprisonment per offence, a court agent cannot represent you.
Fewer limitations apply if the defendant is a corporation.
Court agents are NOT lawyers, meaning:
- they may not possess formal legal training;
- they are not subject to solicitor-client privilege;
- they are not overseen by any professional organization or regulatory body;
- they are not required to deposit client funds into a trust account;
- they are not required to carry liability insurance.
The difference between lawyers' and agents' fees is typically significant. If you cannot afford a lawyer and do not qualify for legal assistance, hiring an experienced and well-qualified court agent to represent you may prove worthwhile.