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Steps in A Criminal Case

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Appearance Notice

Most people charged with a crime are released and given an "Appearance" notice, which tells them to appear in court on a certain day. If the charge is more serious, or if you have had previous criminal convictions, or the police fear the person may not show up for court, the police may hold the person in custody for Court. In that case a judge will decide whether or not to release them on bail while they are waiting for their trial.

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Preliminary Hearing

If you have the trial in Supreme Court, there will usually be a preliminary hearing in Provincial Court. There, the crown prosecutor will present witnesses to see if there is any evidence which a jury could convict you on; if not, the charges will be dropped. The test is fairly low, so most cases usually go on to Supreme Court.

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At trial, whether in Provincial and Supreme Court, the crown presents their case first. They'll call witnesses and present evidence to try to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that you are guilty of the offence. Your lawyer will get to cross examine the crown's witnesses, to challenge their credibility or their version of events.

After the crown has presented their case, you will have an opportunity to present your case. Or your lawyer may decide that the crown doesn't have enough evidence to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt, and you don't need to present any evidence at all.

After both sides have presented their case, the judge or jury must then decide whether or not the crown has proved beyond a reasonable doubt that you are guilty. If found not guilty, then it is as if you were never charged.

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If you are found guilty, then a Judge will sentence you; this may include probation, fines and jail sentences. The maximum and minimum sentences (if any) depend on which offence.

Either you or the crown or can appeal to a higher court if you think the judgement is wrong.

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More questions?

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This page last updated: December 3, 1999
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