How A Criminal Trial Works In Canada

January 6, 2023


Being charged with a crime is a terrifying experience for everyone. Feelings of guilt or anger when wrongfully accused, mixed with the aggravation to your life and the possibility of a criminal conviction and jail, create a situation that most of us are unfamiliar with.

Hiring a criminal defence lawyer to assist you in navigating the criminal court system can relieve some of your worries and provide valuable guidance. This blog post will walk you through the Canadian criminal trial process step by step so that you will know precisely what to anticipate and when to expect it.

Arrest – Police Interactions

The criminal trial process in Canada begins with criminal charges and, in most cases, an arrest. If the police believe you have committed a crime, they may prosecute and imprison you. They must, however, have substantial proof, such as witness accounts and numerous records, such as police, medical, or incidental findings.

When an accused person is arrested, they are either released with an appearance notice, a promise to appear, or a summons on their own recognizance or detained in jail until they appear before a court. During your engagement with the police, they will most likely ask you several questions.

These queries should not be addressed until you have spoken with legal counsel and received guidance on what to do or say. There is no requirement to answer any questions or provide any information to the police.

Appearing In Court

Police officers often release you with a piece of paper stating the date and location of your first court appearance. It is critical that you attend this date and any later dates, or else a warrant will be issued for your arrest, and further charges may be levied.

The court monitors each case and requires an update every few weeks to verify that the case is progressing properly. Your initial court appearance will most likely simply result in the next appearance being scheduled.

This procedure might take several months and can be irritating as you will most likely miss work at various times. However, if you employ a lawyer, he or she can attend the appearances on your behalf and notify you when a personal presence is required.

Also Read: Things To Do Before Meeting With Your Criminal Defence Lawyer


Prosecutors, also known as a Crown Counsel, must give a copy of the evidence against the accused. This is known as a disclosure. Copies of police records, witness testimony, criminal records, and comments you made are all included. It may also include pertinent notes and images. You can ask the judge at your trial confirmation to order the prosecutor to provide you with the disclosure.

When you get them, carefully examine all of the contents and determine if you agree with the allegations levelled against you. Only an experienced criminal defence lawyer can assist you. They will assist you in criminal appeals, understand the disclosure, offer you viable legal choices, discuss sentence options (if you are found guilty), and assist you in deciding how to proceed.

Entering A Plea

Following the disclosure, you must submit a plea to the accused’s charges. There are two fundamental choices: guilty or not guilty. If you plead guilty, you will be convicted and sentenced.

Pleading guilty entails voluntarily admitting all components of the alleged offence, waiving your right to a trial, acknowledging that you will most certainly get a criminal record, and acknowledging that the court is not bound by either your lawyer’s or the prosecutor’s recommendations.

If you do not agree to all of the following, a court will reject your plea and order that you go to trial.

The Trial

Your trial should begin on the specified date once all pretrial concerns and formalities have been handled. The length of the trial will be determined by the nature and complexity of the offence, the number of witnesses, and whether the case is tried before a judge or a jury.

While easy, low-priority cases usually take one to two days, more critical and difficult situations might take days, weeks, or even months. Court cases in Canada are accessible to the public, and a transcript is produced that forms part of the public record.

About Daryl Royer

Mr. Royer is an Edmonton-based criminal defence lawyer who has handled cases in British Columbia, the Northwest Territories, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Ontario. He has extensive expertise in managing matters in different provinces and has been five times before the Supreme Court. Learn more about Daryl Royer and his criminal defence services.

Need an experienced and trustworthy criminal defence lawyer? Contact Daryl now.

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