Canadian Criminal Justice System
I have been charged. What happens now?
If the accused person was arrested and not released by the police from the station on an undertaking, the accused must be brought before the Court as soon as possible for a bail hearing (see the section about the bail hearing). Once the bail has been dealt with, the accused person will receive a first appearance date on which the accused person must appear in court or have a lawyer appear on his or her behalf.
Depending on the jurisdiction and the complexity of the case, the Crown may be able to provide disclosure to the accused person on the first appearance date. If disclosure is not provided, the matter will be put over until a date when the Crown expects to have the disclosure available for the accused person.
Once the disclosure is provided, a Crown pre-trial will be held. At this stage, in many cases, the accused will have to make a decision whether to set a date for a trial or to plead guilty. In more serious or complex cases a judicial pre-trial will also be held before the matter is set down for trial or before a guilty plea.
If the accused person enters a guilty plea and the Court accepts the plea, the Court will then proceed to sentencing the accused.
If the matter is to be set down for trial, a trial date will be set for the first available opportunity. The time for the matter to be heard by a trial judge will depend on the scheduling availability in the particular jurisdiction where the case is to be heard. Accused who are denied bail and remanded in custody will be given priority over accused persons who are out of custody on bail. In more serious cases, the accused may have a choice to have a preliminary inquiry before scheduling the trial (see section on preliminary inquiry).
In general, a criminal case may go through the following procedural steps:
• Bail hearing
• First appearance
• Crown pre-trial
• Judicial pre-trial
• Trial (or preliminary inquiry where available followed by trial)
• Verdict (guilty or not guilty)
• Sentencing (if accused person is found guilty)
• Appeal (if the accused person or Crown appeals the trial judge’s decision)
Note that accused person has a right to enter a guilty plea at any stage of the criminal case.
Barrister & Solicitor
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