Jasna Drnda is an associate lawyer at May Irwin Adam. Her practice is primarily focused on criminal and quasi-criminal litigation at trial and appellate levels. She has argued at the Ontario Court of Justice and the Superior Court of Justice, as well as in the Quebec Court of Justice. Ms. Drnda has represented clients charged with a broad range of offences under the Criminal Code of Canada and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. She has also represented police officers involved in investigations before the Special Investigation Unit (SIU).
Ms. Drnda was born in the former Yugoslavia before immigrating to Canada as a young child. She has since called Ottawa home. She received her Juris Doctor (JD) from the faculty of Law (Common Law) at the University of Ottawa in 2011 following an Honours B.A. in Psychology and a Concentration in Criminology from the same institution. While pursuing her undergraduate studies Ms. Drnda worked as a Parliamentary Page to the House of Commons. She volunteered for the Elizabeth Fry Society of Ottawa as a courtroom support worker for unrepresented female accused. She was also involved with the Infinity Lifer’s Liaison Group while pursuing her undergraduate degree, an organization focusing on advocating for prisoner’s rights. She immediately developed a passion for advocating on behalf of those who did not have a voice or were not being heard.
She is currently a member of the County of Carleton Law Association (CCLA), the Defence Counsel Association of Ottawa (DCAO), the Law Society of Upper Canada, and the Criminal Lawyers Association (CLA).
Why did you become a lawyer?
Though it wasn’t always clear to me, and nor was it ever really planned, I quickly started developing a theme in my volunteer and professional work experience around my passion for helping those whose voices may have been muted or forgotten. I was always drawn to the stories of those who were dismissed and mistreated at the hands of unequal treatment predicated upon the power of prejudice. As an immigrant, my family and I experienced first-hand what it felt like to be unsupported by systems in place intending the opposite. This by in large informed my conscious choice to pursue a career in criminal defence even though it had already been decided well before I was aware.
How do you represent criminals?
I don’t. I represent individuals accused of having committed a criminal offence. I truly believe the fundamental rights provided to each and every one of us by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms – the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty and the right to a fair trial. To undertake a broad-brush approach would not only be a disservice but an injustice to my clients. Every scenario brings its unique set of circumstances, and everyone is entitled to the best defence possible regardless of those circumstances.
What motivates you to fight hard in each and every case?
I believe that no matter their background or socio-economic status, every single person who walks through my office doors deserves the best possible defence. That includes a well-crafted, well-researched and well-executed defence. Coming from a war-torn country, I observed how quickly the rule of law can disintegrate, and visiting my native homeland since the cease of the war, I observed how difficult it is for the rule of law to be rebuilt. I observed first-hand how government power can be misused, leading to atrocious human right violations. I cherish the personal freedoms and security we all, as Canadians, technically share. But, I am not naïve that personal freedoms and security are not felt equally among us all. I am dedicated, in each and every case, to ensure that my client’s rights and freedoms are respected: from initial police contact, all the way through to the termination of the judicial process.