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Areas of Expertise

Derstine Penman is a full-service criminal law firm based in downtown Toronto and practicing throughout Ontario.

Our practice is restricted to criminal and constitutional law. We are experts in both trials and appeals.

At Derstine Penman, our role is to be at your side, guiding you through what can often be a complex legal and procedural process, and providing you with full access to the best legal, technical, evidentiary and investigative resources at your disposal.

Our team consists of many lawyers, articling students and other legal professionals, enabling us to dedicate full and significant resources to each file and to every client.

Our size permits us to devote ample time and energy not just to courtroom work, but also to the research, preparation and investigation which are so vital to criminal defence work.

In addition to our in-house team, we frequently draw on the resources of outside experts in fields such as forensics, private investigation, toxicology, as well as behavioural experts from numerous fields.

At Derstine Penman we enjoy the challenge of our craft and we take pride in our work.

We would be pleased to meet with you if we can be of service.

Here are some of the areas in which we have expertise.

Derstine Penman has defended many clients charged with murder including very high profile murder cases such as the Tori Stafford homicide, and the Eaton Centre shooting.   Derstine Penman has the team, legal knowledge and years of experience, to help anyone successfully defend a charge of murder. If you or someone you care about is charged with murder it is essential that they be represented by a murder specialist. These are the most complex and challenging trials in criminal law, pick your lawyer carefully.

There are two categories of murder offences, first degree and second degree murder.  Both are intentional killings with first degree murder also incorporating an element of planning and deliberation.  First degree murder is also made out if the killing took place during the course of another unlawful act, such as sexual assault.  Manslaughter is an unintentional killing that results in death.

The automatic sentence of imprisonment for first degree murder is life imprisonment with no chance of parole until 25years have been served.  Second degree murder also carries an automatic life sentence, but parole is determined by the court with a minimum of 10 years having to be served before one can apply for parole.   Manslaughter sentences can range from no jail all the way up to life imprisonment.

Attempt murder is the charge that encompasses the situation where there is the same intent as murder, but death does not ensue.  The potential maximum imprisonment for attempt murder is the same as that of murder, life imprisonment.

The lawyers at Derstine Penman can help you vigorously defend a charge of murder/manslaughter or attempt murder.  We have built years of experience working on countless numbers of these cases. Put our vast experience to work for you. We encourage you to contact us for a consultation.

More and more we are seeing large police enforcement in areas of gangs and organized crimes. These prosecutions have a number of features which make them difficult to defend. They often have an extremely large amount of crown disclosure. This disclosure needs to be reviewed to properly defend you and your case, but its sheer volume is often beyond the ability of one lawyer to review.

At Derstine Penman we have the resources and the numbers to process extremely large volumes of complex disclosure. We have experts in search warrants, tracking warrants, cell tower analysis,, the law of criminal conspiracy and the law of criminal organization.

Whether you have been charged with being the head or a minor player in a criminal organization, this prosecution will take a lot of time. You can expect that it will be years before you actually see your trial. This will be especially challenging if you are in custody. Even if you are out of custody, harsh bail conditions can be extremely hard to live with for years.

Lawyers at Derstine Penman have defended people is most of the major gang and organized crime projects in the last 15 years. We have achieved significant success for our clients and have won the respect of the criminal law bar for our focused and effective defence of these charges.

If you are charged with any offences of this nature, call us and we are happy to visit you free of charge, in or out of custody.

Sexual assault is a very serious charge in Canada. It can include conduct from an unwanted touch or kiss all the way to forced intercourse.

No matter the nature of the allegation, this is a charge that needs an experienced defence. A conviction for even a relatively lesser sexual assault can have devastating consequences for the rest of your life. You may see your current employment and / or your future employment put in peril.

A conviction for sexual assault often, but not always, leads to incarceration and your name being put on the national and provincial sex offender registries, and registration on the national DNA bank.    In some cases, there is a mandatory minimum sentence of incarceration that must be imposed.   This means that there is a minimum amount of jail time that the judge MUST impose.  For example, there is a one year in jail minimum for a conviction where the complainant is under 16yrs of age.

Sexual assault charges are serious and often complex to defend.  This is why you need a lawyer who has the experience and understanding of the laws of evidence that are needed to successfully defend a sexual assault charge.

At Derstine Penman we have the experience and the knowledge that is needed to take on even the most serious sexual assault cases.  We regularly defend clients on these charges. We have had considerable success at trial in defending persons accused of such crimes.   In all instances, we will help guide you through the process; doing our best to ensure the best possible outcome.

If you are involved in a relationship with another person and you are charged with assault it is referred to as a domestic assault charge. Domestic assault is not a different charge legally but it is dealt with as if it was. Different courthouses in Ontario deal differently with domestic assault charges. Some focus on ways that families can get back together while others concentrate on ensuring convictions.

Domestic assault is treated seriously by all Courts. It does not have to involve a wife or husband, it can include boyfriend or girlfriend, same sex partner or the like.

Regardless of the nature of the domestic relationship the police also treat such allegations very seriously. They often arrest very quickly where allegations are made. They may well arrest even when the person who complained to them does not want an arrest.

If you have been arrested on a domestic assault charge you will be taken to the police station in custody. If you are very lucky you can be released from the station but you will almost certainly have to promise not to go back home or have any contact with your partner and likely your children. This bail condition can last for a year or longer.

If you are taken to bail court the next day you should try to get a surety who can sign for you and promise to supervise you in the community. Hopefully you can live with this surety. Again the Court will likely impose conditions that you not have contact with your partner or children.

Domestic assault bail conditions can seriously disrupt families. The financial and emotional strain of being kept apart can be terrible for all members of the family. A conviction for domestic assault can have serious consequences in family court proceedings. Like all criminal charges it can also be harmful to your ability to get or keep a job.

At Derstine Penman we have all the expertise and knowledge to help you achieve a good outcome in cases of domestic assault. We will work hard to get you good bail terms or vary them if they have already been imposed. If you are not guilty we will provide the strong trial defence for which we are well known. If you want to plead guilty we will help you get the best possible result. In some cases a criminal record can be avoided.  Call us for a free consultation.

These two offences are often linked because they occur online. Both are very serious offences which can cause tremendous damage to your reputation and your future or current employment.  Child pornography charges carry a mandatory sentence of jail for six months to a year. If convicted you will be going to jail.

They also require a lawyer and a firm who has considerable expertise in defending this sort of allegation. At Derstine Penman we have the specialized knowledge of the legal and factual complexities of defending these charges.

Among other things you will need a lawyer who is well aware of the complex issues of the interplay between the law and the internet.

Defence of both of these charges often starts with an attack on the search warrants which allowed the police to access your records and your computer. At Derstine Penman we are vastly experienced at quashing search warrants by finding that they breached your rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. On any given day we probably have a couple of lawyers working on search warrant cases. We have had great success in challenging search warrants and we can bring this experience to bear on your case. If the police breached your rights in searching your private information then this evidence can be excluded.

As with all charges, come in and we will talk to you about your situation free of charge.

Impaired driving charges can have devastating consequences to your ability to drive, your insurance, your reputation and potentially your liberty. You need a lawyer experienced in this very specialized field to give yourself the best chance of a good outcome.

In Canada you can be charged for impaired driving, driving with more than 80mg of alcohol, or refusing to provide a breath or blood sample.  Impaired driving also covers not only impairment by alcohol, but impairment by drug.

“Over 80” and “refuse” charges do not require evidence of actual impairment. You could appear fine but still be charged and potentially convicted of these offences. Impaired driving do not require a breath test to prosecute, though they are often prosecuted with and “over 80 or a “refuse” count attached to the impaired driving count.

All of them have a mandatory driving suspension and all of them will cause your insurance to skyrocket.

All these offences carry mandatory minimum penalties. If convicted of your first offence you will receive a minimum $1000 fine and a licence suspension for one year.  You will also have to meet certain conditions before regaining your licence. Typical conditions can include installation of an interlock device and participating in an alcohol treatment program.

This is a technical area of the law and needs specialized knowledge. Often your defence is assisted by defences based on the Charter of Rights. If your rights were breached while the evidence was collected you could be entitled to have that evidence excluded. This could lead to your charges being withdrawn or you being acquitted.


If you have been charged with any of these offences, come and meet one of our impaired driving lawyers for a free consultation.

Whether you have been charged with importing a large amount of cocaine or possessing a small amount of a lesser drug, drug offences can be a serious matter in your life. Convictions for drug offences often mean a long time in jail. Even when jail is not the outcome, drug charges can severely restrict your employment and travel.

Drug offences can be broken down into several different levels.

Simple Possession:  This is the least of the offences. Possession charges vary in severity by the kind of drug you are accused of possessing. Drugs are broken into schedules with the most serious together and the last serious together. To prove possession the Crown will have to show that you had control over the drugs, that you knew the drugs were there and that you had a measure of control over the drugs.

Possession for the purpose of trafficking.

This is the next most serious level of drug offence. It varies in severity with the kind of drug the police said you possessed. It also varies with the quantity they said you possessed. The elements of this offence are the same as possession but the Crown must also prove that your possession was for the purpose of trafficking. Trafficking often means sale but it can also mean sharing. Often this offence is proven by having a drug expert testify that the amount they seized was larger than an amount that a simple user would own.

This offence requires that you have sold or shared narcotics with another person. It often is prosecuted as a sale but this is not required. Like the other drug offences it changes in severity for kind of drug and quantity trafficked.

This is the most serious offence. Again it varies by type of drug and amount imported. Bringing in a substantial amount of cocaine is punishable by long sentences in the penitentiary, while bringing in small amounts of a softer drug is much less serious.

At Derstine Penman our lawyers are very experienced at defending drug charges. Often such defence involves challenging the search warrants, which are often the cornerstone of the Crown’s case.  Successful challenge to such searches has seen a number of our clients walk free even in cases involving very serious drug charges.

If you have been charged with a drug offence, call us and we will be happy to meet with you to discuss how we can help you.

Extradition is where a person is suspected of committing a crime in a country other than Canada,  and that foreign jurisdiction is asking Canada to send that person for the purpose of criminal prosecution in that country.  Canada has extradition treaties with a number of countries, where it is agreed that people will be extradited so long as certain criteria are met.

If you are facing extradition to another country the first thing you need is a bail order. Getting bail will let you organize your defence better and prevent you from being punished before you can have your hearing.

In order for a person to be extradited from Canada, the crime alleged must also be a crime in Canada as well as in the country seeking your extradition.  There must also be some evidence that the crime has been committed.   These are all criminal law issues, for which we have years of experience to bring to the table.   Derstine Penman has the skills and expertise to represent you at all aspects of the extradition process including the bail hearing, the extradition  hearing itself and any appeal resulting from a denial of bail for example.

Derstine Penman having years of experience as criminal lawyers, are in the best position to advise and assist you in the complicated extradition process.   Please contact us for a free consultation so we can determine how best to assist you.

Human trafficking charges are very serious and can result if a person recruits, transports, receives, holds, conceals, transfers or harbours another person.  Charges may be laid if a person exercises control, direction or influence over the movement of another person for the purposes of exploiting them for a sexual purpose, or use a forced labour.   Often we think of trafficking in the context of charges for ‘pimping’ women or transporting women.  It is a common concept in the sex industry but can also occur in labour, or domestic work industries.

There are a wide range of charges that can result from allegations of human trafficking.  The penalties are severe and for some offences there are mandatory minimum jail sentences if convicted.  There are also a number of related offences including sexual assault, assault, kidnapping, forcible confinement etc.

The lawyers at Derstine Penman have defended many cases of human trafficking.    We have the experience and tools necessary to successfully defend human trafficking and related offences.    Please contact us for a free consultation to determine how we can help you.