Which Court will hear my case?
Most summary offense are held in Provincial Court with a Judge hearing the case. If your matter is Indictable, you have the right to choose which Court hears your matter, also known as your “election”. Your lawyer can advise which method of trial is best suited for your specific case.
a. Provincial Court Judge;
b. Queen’s Bench Judge Alone with a Preliminary Inquiry;
c. Queen’s Bench Judge Alone without a Preliminary Inquiry;
d. Queen’s Bench Judge with a Jury with a Preliminary Inquiry; and
e. Queen’s Bench Judge with a Jury without a Preliminary Inquiry.
What Plea should I enter?
There are six possible pleas but most people will only use the most common which are, “Not Guilty or Guilty”.
a. Plead NOT Guilty – If you plead not guilty, your matter is set for whichever mode of trial you have chosen, and a hearing date is set by the Court.
Preliminary Inquiry – This form of hearing will determine if there is “some evidence” you committed the offence.
This is a very low test to meet. The Preliminary Inquiry is a very useful tool for both Crown Prosecutor’s and Defence counsel to determine the strength and weaknesses of the evidence.
The Preliminary Inquiry much like a Trial, requires the Crown Prosecutor to present evidence through witnesses or documents to satisfy the Court there is “some evidence” an offence has been committed. IF in the opinion of the Judge there is some evidence of the offence charged or of another offence, the Judge will commit you to stand trial.
If the Judge finds there is “no evidence” of an offence being committed, he or she would then discharge you and the matter is concluded and you would be found not guilty.
If the Judge commits or orders you to stand trial, your next date will be held in “Criminal App¬earance Court”. At Criminal Appearance Court, a Trial date will be set, and you will be required to appear in person, for Trial.
If you have asked for a Jury, you will need to appear in person for Jury Selection on the date scheduled.
b. Plead Guilty – If you wish to plead guilty, your matter is then set for sentencing. Your sentencing can happen on the same date that you enter your guilty plea, or it can happen on a later date.
c. Trial – A trial is similar in both Provincial Court and the Court of Queen’s Bench. The Crown Prosecutor calls evidence and witnesses to prove the charges. You will be given the opportunity to cross examine the witnesses. Once the Crown has closed its case and called all the evidence, it is then the Defences turn to call witnesses and answer the Crown Prosecutor’s case. There is no requirement for the Accused to call evidence.
You may wish to call witnesses to testify on your behalf. If you do, you are responsible for making sure that they come to Court on the day of the trial. You can ask them to come to Court, or you may ask the Court for a “Subpoena”.
To get a subpoena issued, take a completed “Subpoena to a Witness” form to the Court office. If you intend to subpoena more than one witness, have ALL the subpoena forms fully completed before going to the Court office.
When you submit your subpoena forms, a Clerk of the Court will ask you some questions. (Please note that staff will not issue blank subpoenas.) If the Clerk is not satisfied that the witness named in the subpoena can provide material evidence or testimony at trial then they will not issue the subpoena. In that event, you can complete a brief written summary of the evidence you believe the witness can provide at trial and ask that the request be put before a Judge.
You are responsible for any costs associated with serving the subpoena.
The Crown’s job is to prove that you are guilty of the charges beyond a reasonable doubt. As an accused person, you do not have to prove that you are innocent of the charges. You do not have to give any evidence or call any witnesses at your trial. However, you may decide that it is in your best interest to do so, especially if the Crown appears to have a strong case against you. If you have a lawyer, he or she will advise you, however, it is up to you to decide.
It is the Court’s responsibility to make sure you have a fair trial and that all of your rights are protected.
*The foregoing information is for general educational purposes and is not meant to be used as advice with respect to the conduct of any case or proceeding against an individual. Please contact our office to discuss your case, and at that time, we can offer you the best legal advice for your specific situation.