What Happens After You’ve Been Charged with a Criminal Offence?
By Carimé Lane, Articling Student
You’ve just been charged with a criminal offence. What happens next?
To help demystify the process, we’ve outlined the seven stages of a criminal file:
Stage 1: Securing the funds for your defence
Like many, you may not have money readily available to pay for your defence. You still have options:
- You can call Legal Aid Ontario to see if you qualify for Legal Aid at 1-800-668-8258.
- If you don’t qualify, you can shop around for quotes. At Derstine Penman, we offer junior and senior lawyer rates, and depending on the situation, payment plans.
Stage 2: Requesting disclosure
In short, disclosure is the evidence the Crown has against you. It includes documents and videos like:
- A Synopsis/police summary of the case
- Crown charge screening form
- Police officers’ notes
- Witness statements
- A booking video
- Footage from inside the police car
Your first few appearances in court are usually to request disclosure. The Crown may provide full disclosure, or part of the disclosure at once. If they provide you with full disclosure, you can move on to the next step. If not, you may remain at this step while you await full disclosure.
Stage 3: The Crown Pre Trial (AKA “the CPT”)
The CPT is a meeting with the Crown to negotiate how your case will resolve. If you have a lawyer, they will attend this for you.
Depending on your charges, the resolutions explored in the CPT could be:
- Diversion or alternative measures (community service, restitution, and so on)
- Attending counselling for anger management or a treatment facility for substance use
- Signing a peace bond to promise to keep the peace and be of good behaviour
- Pleading guilty
If you don’t get the resolution you want at this step, then the next step would be preparing for trial.
Stage 4: The Judicial Pre-Trial (AKA “the JPT”)
At a JPT, a judge may help the Crown and defence come to an agreement about how to resolve your matter. Otherwise, the judge will help the parties plan the trial. The judge may also discuss how to make the trial shorter by reducing the number or complexity of the issues that will be argued in your trial.
Stage 5: The Preliminary Inquiry
A preliminary hearing is used to decide if the evidence against you is strong enough to commit you to trial. But you only qualify if you’ve been charged with certain offences.
Your case is eligible for a preliminary inquiry if you’ve been charged with an indictable or hybrid offence that the Crown decides to treat as an indictable offence and if you’re found guilty, you could be jailed for 14 years or more.
Stage 6: The Trial
Depending on what you have been charged with, you may have a trial in front of a judge, or a judge and jury.
Stage 7: Sentencing
If you plead guilty, or are convicted after your trial, your matter will end at the sentencing stage. Sometimes the Crown and defence will agree on a sentence before the sentencing hearing. This is called a joint position.
If the Crown and defence do not agree on a sentence before the sentencing hearing, they will have to argue for the sentence they think is fit before a judge.
Remember: Your file is unique
As you’re going through the court process, it’s important to understand that each file is unique, and your case may end or stay in a certain stage longer–or shorter–than another.
For instance, if the Crown is proposing counselling in exchange for withdrawal of your charges, and you accept this proposal, you won’t make it past Step 3. Or your case may remain at Step 2: Requesting disclosure for weeks – or even months – if the Crown is slow in getting your disclosure to you.
Essentially, every case will look different but the process remains the same.