How do Legal Aid Certificates work?

  • Legal Aid Ontario issues legal aid certificates to persons criminally charged if they qualify
  • Persons who apply and receive a certificate can bring the certificate to a qualified lawyer who accepts Legal Aid certificates
  • Legal Aid Ontario will directly pay the lawyer for his or her legal services
  • Persons who provide their lawyer a Legal Aid certificate do NOT have to pay any further fees for legal services.

How do you qualify for Legal Aid?

  • To qualify for a Legal Aid Certificate, you have to earn less than Legal Aid’s income cut-off amounts. Also, to qualify for a certificate, Legal Aid has set a rule that you must be charged with a crime serious enough that would likely result in a jail sentence if you are found guilty at trial.
  • Legal Aid has recently expanded coverage to persons facing at-risk situations or who are members of a vulnerable group. Be sure to mention, when applying, all health, cultural, employment, family, travel, immigration, educational, and housing impacts you believe a criminal conviction will pose.
  • Visit for more information about legal aid. To apply for Legal Aid, call: 1 800 668 8258 or 416 979 1446.
Table 1. Figures as at January 2016.
Eligible Annual Household income
(before tax)
# of Members in
Applicant’s Household
$7978 or less Single Boarder
$12 135 or less 1
$20 993 or less 2
$23 932 or less 3
$27 042 or less 4
$30 016 or less 5+
Note: Income limits are higher for individuals willing to enter a contribution agreement, and for victims of domestic assault. Visit for all figures.

What should you consider before applying for Legal Aid?

  • Does the lawyer I intend to hire accept Legal Aid?
  • What, if any, personal information about myself or the circumstances of my charges am I willing to disclose to Legal Aid? You should speak with a lawyer first before talking to anyone about your charges.
  • Am I willing to disclose personal financial records? To consider your application, Legal Aid Ontario may require you to provide bank statements and other financial documents belonging to you, your spouse or other household members.
  • Am I willing to sign a contribution agreement? If your household income is higher than (but not too far off from) the income cut-offs, Legal Aid may require you to enter a contribution agreement meaning you make monthly payments to Legal Aid to cover some or all of your lawyer’s fees.
  • Am I willing to have a lien placed on my property? If you financially qualify for a legal aid certificate but own property, Legal Aid may request a lien on your property before issuing a certificate.

What to do if you are refused by Legal Aid?

  • If you are refused Legal Aid you can appeal the decision or speak with a lawyer about setting a reasonable fee so that you can hire him or her with your own money.
  • If you are a youth between the ages of 12 and 17, you can ask a lawyer to apply for a section 25(4) court order to require Legal Aid to issue you a certificate.

Contact Justin Chan

Hi, I am Justin Chan, Criminal Defence Lawyer. I created this webpage because many of my clients and prospective clients have questions about Ontario’s legal aid system. If you have questions about your criminal charges and the legal aid process, contact me at 647 270 5127 or email me at

Applications or formal inquiries must be made by visiting Legal Aid Ontario’s official website:, or by calling: 1 800 668 8258 or 416 979 1446.

Criminal Defence Lawyer
telephone: 647-270-5127