Jonathan Desbarats

Vancouver Criminal Lawyer

Jonathan Desbarats is a vancouver criminal lawyer and partner at Pender Litigation, practising in both English and French. Originally from London, Ontario, he graduated from Mount Allison University in 1995 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English literature, with honours. He then pursued a career in journalism, winning awards for his news reporting and photojournalism, before working as a documentary film producer on co-productions for the NFB, the CBC, the History Channel, and HBO, among others.

In 2002 he attended the University of Toronto Law School, earning his juris doctor in 2005. Following graduation he was hired as an articled student, and then as an associate, with Ian Donaldson, Q.C. and Mark Jetté, at the law firm Donaldson Jetté. In 2010 he formed his own practice, and in 2014 he joined Sutherland Jetté. He is a founding partner at Pender Litigation.

Jonathan has extensive experience in litigation, including criminal trials and appeals. He has represented clients in all areas of criminal law including drug trafficking and importation, domestic assault, firearms possession, large scale fraud, extortion, sexual assault, driving offences, and murder. He has represented clients at all levels of court in British Columbia, as well as courts in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Ontario. He has worked on a number of lengthy and highly publicized multi-accused criminal trials, including the “Surrey Six” trial, R. v. Haevischer and Johnston. He has also appeared before various administrative tribunals including the B.C. Review Board, the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, the Parole Board of Canada, and others.

Jonathan is bilingual, speaking both French and English, and has acted for clients in both official languages.


Drug Offences

Even a simple possession charge in Canada can have a serious impact on a person’s life, affecting their employment and ability to travel. Jonathan Desbarats has extensive experience defending clients charged in connection with simple drug possession as well as more serious drug dealing offences including dial-a-dope drug operations, importation of controlled substances, small to large scale marijuana grow operations, and trafficking in large quantities of drugs at the kilogram level including heroin, cocaine, opium, and methamphetamine. He has successfully gained acquittals in many cases by challenging the Crown’s evidence on possession.  He also has the legal knowledge and expertise to have charges dismissed where the police have violated a person’s Charter rights by conducting an illegal arrest or search of a vehicle, home, or cell phone.

Driving Offences

Driving offences are registered on your ICBC driving record and can in some cases result in a driving suspension. Those who are pulled over or stopped at a roadblock and suspected of drinking and driving can receive a 90-day immediate roadside prohibition (an IRP) and have their vehicle impounded, or worse, criminal DUI charges.  In drinking and driving cases, a court conviction will result in significant fine and an automatic lengthy driving suspension. Drivers who have received an IRP, an ADP (Administrative Driving Prohibition), or a court conviction for drinking and driving, can also receive additional fines and be subject to fees for enrollment in the Responsible Driver Program and the installment of an Ignition Interlock device.

Over the years Jonathan has successfully defended many driving related offences, from minor offences under the B.C. Motor Vehicle Act, to impaired driving, refusal to submit to a breathalyzer test, dangerous driving, and driving while prohibited. He has successfully challenged the admissibility of breathalyzer results, and has had DUI charges reduced to an offence under the Motor Vehicle Act.



Violent Offences

Violent offences run the gamut from simple assault, to assault causing bodily harm, aggravated assault, manslaughter, attempted murder and murder. Domestic assault is an assault that occurs between family members in a domestic context. Domestic or spousal assault allegations are often complex, emotionally charged, and highly disruptive to an accused person and their family. Jonathan has the experience and knowledge to navigate the court system in a confident and professional manner while remaining attentive to a client’s particular needs.

Recent changes to the law of self-defence in Canada have made self-defence more widely available,  and Jonathan has fought successfully for acquittals in multiple cases involving assault causing bodily harm and aggravated assault.

Sexual Offences

An allegation of sexual assault, or for that matter any other sexual offence such as sexual interference, indecent exposure, possession of child pornography, voyeurism, internet luring, sexual touching, or sexual exploitation, carries an extremely negative stigma. The mere fact of an accusation can turn a person’s life upside down. Regardless of the charges they face, Jonathan defends his clients with tenacity and skill, while protecting their privacy to the fullest extent.   

Bar Admissions
  • British Columbia, 2006
  • Juris Doctor, University of Toronto, Faculty of Law, 2005
  • Bachelor of Arts, with Honours in English Literature, Mount Allison University, 1995
Representative Cases
Professional Associations and Memberships
  • Trial Lawyers Association of British Columbia
  • Association des juristes d’expression française de la Colombie Britannique
  • Law Society of British Columbia
  • B.C. Civil Liberties Association
  • Canadian Bar Association
Pro Bono Activities
  • Supervising Lawyer, UBC Innocence Project
  • Legal Counsel, Access Pro Bono Legal Clinic
  • English
  • French
Jonathan Desbarats Vancouver Criminal Lawyer

Jonathan Desbarats

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