If you are charged with a criminal offence in Ottawa, it helps to know what to expect from the Ontario criminal justice process.
While the circumstances of every case are different, most criminal charges follow the same basic pre-trial and trial processes.
Following is an overview of the main steps you will encounter. The details of your case will dictate the exact process but the following information provides a good idea of what is around the corner if you or a loved one faces a criminal trial.
Before your criminal trial date
Ideally, you will have engaged a criminal defence lawyer as soon as possible after your arrest and charge.
That generally enables a smoother release process as you await a trial date – and should also help you understand your legal options, the legal processes, and the possible consequences of a conviction.
If you have not already hired legal representation at that stage, you should do so as soon as possible so that we can begin working on your defence.
The basic steps before your trial and court appearance include:
What if you can’t attend court on the scheduled date?
The courts in Ontario are busy places and they run on tight schedules.
It is important to attend court on time for your trial as postponements (“adjournments”) are rarely granted – only in exceptional cases or where an application is made well in advance.
Even if you have no legal representation, you will be expected to attend court in person at the allotted time. If you cannot make it, an explanation for your absence from somebody on your behalf will be necessary.
Your trial may proceed without you and, if you are found guilty of the original offence or the new offence of “failing to appear”, a warrant for your arrest may be issued immediately.
With representation from a lawyer from Friedman Law, you will prevent this from happening.
Can you plead guilty after your trial date is set?
Generally, people charged with a criminal offence go to trial if they plead not guilty. Even after the trial date is set you can change your appeal to guilty by notifying the Crown Attorney’s Office in writing.
Your lawyer can advise you whether this is an appropriate step to take in your case.
Essential elements and reasonable doubt
A document known as the “Information” will detail the criminal offence(s) that you have been charged with. A copy can be retrieved from the court office where your trial is to be held.
Essential elements of the offence
To convict you of a criminal offence, the Crown prosecution will need to prove each essential element of the charge(s) against you (as laid out in the “Information”) beyond a reasonable doubt.
Remember that you are presumed innocent until proven guilty of each of these essential elements.
Proof in Ontario does not require absolute certainty – only “beyond a reasonable doubt”. However, this is still a much higher standard of proof than that required in civil cases (“balance of probabilities”).
Who will be present in the courtroom?
To set your expectations accordingly, it helps to be aware of the various court personnel who will be present at your trial in addition to your criminal defence lawyer:
- The trial judge (“Your Honour”) – an impartial judicial officer who presides over your trial, ensures that proceedings are conducted fairly and makes the final verdict. The judge is not permitted to provide legal advice.
- Trial Crown Attorney (“the Crown” or “the prosecutor”) – the party responsible for proving all the elements of the charge(s) against you beyond a reasonable doubt.
- Court clerk – the assistant to the trial judge, reading charges, requesting a plea, announcing and swearing witnesses, and looking after exhibits.
- Court reporter/monitor – a court official who creates a record of everything said during the trial.
Following is a summary of the various stages in a criminal trial once it enters the courtroom.
Facing a criminal charge?
The lawyers at Affordable Defence in Ottawa are committed to protecting your rights and freedoms and reducing the consequences of a criminal charge for your future.
Start by arranging a free case evaluation: call 613-223-4089.