Newmarket Courthouse Telephone Directory:
Criminal Court Procedure
If you believe that you may be charged or have been charged with a criminal offence then I would urge you to seek legal advice. This article is no substitute for legal advice, but will rather outline the criminal process in the Toronto and the surrounding area courthouses.
RIGHT TO SILENCE AND A LAWYER
Everyone who is being interrogated by the police in connection with a criminal charge has the right to silence and should exercise this right. Many accused persons believe they can talk their way out of being charged or that by asking to speak to a lawyer it makes them look guilty. Nothing can be farther from the truth; in reality, if you ask to speak to a lawyer you are protecting yourself and exercising the rights that are guaranteed to every individual under the Charter of Rights. It is critical to exercise your right to silence and ask to speak to a lawyer at the first instance.
HAVE YOU BEEN CHARGED WITH A CRIMINAL OFFENCE?
If you are being investigated by the police, you should immediately seek the expertise of a criminal lawyer. Once a police officer charges an accused person, that person should immediately exercise their constitutional right to silence and ask to speak to a lawyer. After charges have been laid the police officer has the discretion to hold an accused for a bail hearing or release the accused from the police station with certain conditions. If the accused is released from the police station, it is imperative for the accused to follow the conditions imposed on him/her by the police. If an accused person is released from the police station they will be given an appearance notice. This is commonly known as a first appearance. Failure to attend court or follow any other condition may result in further criminal charges.
Nothing substantive will happen on your first appearance, it is not a trial date.
The primary purpose of your first appearance will be to obtain the details of the allegations against you. This is commonly known as disclosure. The Crown has an obligation to provide you with all the relevant evidence that may be used in court, irrespective of whether the evidence proves or disproves their case. An accused is entitled to all evidence, even evidence that points towards the innocence of the accused. An experienced lawyer can be of great assistance in obtaining all relevant disclosure material from the crown attorney.
Disclosure will usually include police notes, statements by witnesses, photographs and any other evidence that is relevant to your case. The first appearance is not your trial date.
The crown pre-trial, also known as a resolution meeting is usually scheduled once disclosure has been provided to your lawyer and he/she has had an opportunity to review it. During the crown pre-trial, your lawyer and the Crown Attorney will discuss the strengths and weaknesses of your case. It is important to remember that the crown has the burden of proving all the allegations against you beyond a reasonable doubt.
During the crown pre-trial it is common to discuss whether the matter will go to trial or whether it will resolve by way of a plea or in some other fashion. Your lawyer and the crown attorney may discuss the appropriate sentence if the accused wishes to plead guilty. In the alternative, your lawyer and the crown attorney will discuss the length of the trial, the number of witnesses required and what evidence the parties wish to rely on.
Your lawyer may wish to set a judicial pre-trial at the end of his/her discussions with the Crown Attorney for various strategic reasons.
A judicial pre-trial is set when one party usually believes that the assistance of a judge will help to assess your case. At the judicial pre-trial the judge will usually provide some input as to the strengths and weaknesses of the crown’s case in an attempt to bring the parties closer together in hopes that the matter will resolve without a trial.
The judge may also provide input as to the appropriate sentence if the matter does resolve and the accused wishes to enter a plea of guilty. In the alternative, if the parties cannot reach an agreement, the judge will provide input to help the parties narrow the issues for trial and determine the appropriate length for the trial.
Once your lawyer has had a crown pre-trial and a judicial pre-trial if necessary, it will be for the accused to decide whether he/she wishes to plead guilty or to take the matter to trial. Your lawyer will discuss the probability of winning at trial and whether it would be in your interest to plead guilty or not, but the final decision rests with the accused.
Your lawyer will also discuss what type of sentence may be imposed if the accused decides to plead guilty, but the final decision as to the appropriate sentence always lies with the judge.
Before a trial is set many events need to happen first. It can often take several months or even longer before your actual trial date. At trial the crown has the burden of proving all the allegations against the accused beyond a reasonable doubt. In other words, the judge must almost be certain that the accused committed the offences it is not enough for the judge to believe the accused probably committed the offences.
The crown will try to prove their case by calling witnesses to testify and by leading other evidence. Your lawyer will have an opportunity to question the crown’s witnesses afterwards, it is at this stage where trials are usually won or lost. A well prepared, experienced lawyer will know how to poke holes in the stories from crown witnesses, bringing the credibility of their witnesses into question. In some instances, your lawyer may want to bring a charter application to exclude certain evidence that may have been obtained illegally. An experienced, knowledgeable lawyer will be your best defence in assuring the best possible outcome in your case. It is imperative that you select a lawyer that has the experience and the ability to dedicate enough time to devise a winning strategy for trial.
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