In a world like today, if you are unaware of how a criminal trial works, you are missing out on essentials. The lack of knowledge regarding the criminal trial process can lead to unfavourable circumstances when facing criminal charges. Here we will tell you more about the criminal trial and why hiring the right lawyer is crucial to winning.
What Is A Criminal Trial?
A trial is a process in which the trier of facts, which is either a judge sitting alone or a jury, hears all the evidence and determines whether or not an accused is guilty of the offence(s) charged. The duration of a criminal trial can vary anywhere from a few hours to a few months or even years.
In a criminal trial, both sides get to tell their side of the story through witnesses. The opposition will get the opportunity to cross-examine each of the witnesses in an effort to test their credibility and elicit testimony that is more favourable to your case.
The accused has a choice as to whether or not he testifies. The decision to testify is an important one, as it may not always be beneficial for the accused to take the stand. Such a decision should be made only after looking at all of the evidence and surrounding circumstances of your case. An experienced lawyer can help you assess the advantages and disadvantages that may arise from you testifying in your case before making the decision.
Various Steps Of A Criminal Case:
1 – Arrest
Most cases start with an individual being arrested for a crime he/she has been alleged to have committed. At this point, three things might happen.
- The police may release the individual suspect without laying charges
- The police may lay charges and release the individual on an appearance notice, a promise to appear, a summons, or a recognizance.
- The police may lay charges and hold the individual in custody until they are brought before the court for a bail hearing
2 – The Case Starts
Now that the accused has been charged, an “Information” detailing the charge will be sworn by a peace officer who has reasonable and probable grounds to believe that the person has committed a criminal offence. Information is a formal document that initiates the court proceeding.
3 – Disclosure
The Crown (also known as prosecutors) are obligated to provide the accused with a copy of all of the evidence against them. This may include any witness statements, officer notes, and criminal records related to the case. The Crown’s failure to provide important items of disclosure before the trial may violate an accused’s right to full answer and defence under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
It may take several weeks, or even months, to receive all the disclosure. An experienced criminal defence lawyer can help you review and understand the disclosure, ensure that you have all the disclosure you’re entitled to, and advise you on the best way to proceed with the case.
4 – The First Appearance
The accused appears in court for the first time. On this date, the accused may be asked whether or not disclosure has been received, and whether or not the accused has hired or intends to hire a lawyer. The matter will then be adjourned to a future date to deal with these things are dealt with in the interim.
5 – The Crown Pre-Trial
A Crown Pre-Trial is a discussion between the accused (or his lawyer) and the Crown attorney, regarding the issues related to the case and possible ways to resolve the case.
6 – Judicial Pre-Trial Preliminary Inquiry, and Pre-Trial Applications or Motions
A Judicial Pre-Trial is similar to a Crown Pre-Trial but is conducted before a judge. The purpose of a Judicial Pre-Trial is to revisit the possibility of resolution, estimate the time required for trial, and canvas any procedural and evidentiary issues. Not every case will require a Judicial Pre-Trial, however, cases that are expected to take up a significant period of Court time will often require one.
A preliminary inquiry is a hearing to determine if there is sufficient evidence to set the matter down for trial. In Canada, a preliminary inquiry is only available where the accused has elected to have a trial before the Superior Court, and the maximum penalty for the offence is 14 years or more.
On the other hand, there are several different pre-trial applications or motions that may need to be conducted prior to the actual trial. These include evidence voir dires (to determine the admissibility of evidence) and Charter applications (where the accused alleges that his Charter rights have been breached).
7 – The Trial
Once all of the pre-trial issues have been dealt with, the matter will proceed to the trial on the scheduled date. It will begin with the Crown presenting its evidence. The Defence will be given an opportunity to cross-examine each of the Crown witnesses. Once the Crown has completed its evidence, the Defence will have the option of calling evidence to counter the allegations. If the Defence calls witnesses, the Crown will then have an opportunity to cross-examine them.
Once the Defence has completed its evidence, both parties will make final submissions on why the accused should be found guilty or not guilty, using the evidence that was presenting in the trial and drawing any reasonable inferences from it.
Following the final submissions, the trier of fact will find the accused guilty or not guilty. This could happen either immediately after the trial or after an adjournment to a later date. If the accused is found not guilty, he or she will be acquitted of the charge(s) and will be free to go.
8 – The Sentencing
If the accused is found guilty, the court must then decide the appropriate sentence. In Canada, the fundamental principle of sentencing is that it must be proportionate to the gravity of the offence and the degree of responsibility of the offender. There are a variety of sentences that may be available depending on the type of offence, including a discharge, a conditional sentence, a fine, probation, or imprisonment.
The Crown and Defence may agree to make a joint submission with respect to what the sentence should be. On the other hand, the parties may independently make submissions in an effort to convince the court to impose a lesser or greater sentence. In this case, the Defence will argue that the sentence should be reduced to account for relevant mitigating factors (such as the accused having no prior record and a working stable job), while the Crown will argue that the sentence should be increased to account for aggravating factors (such as the offence being motivated by bias or the offender being in a position of trust or authority in relation to the victim). In the end, the court will consider all of the relevant evidence and principles of sentencing and impose the sentence it finds most fit.
Importance Of The Right Criminal Lawyer At A Trail
An experienced Criminal Defence Lawyer knows the complex workings of the court system and can guide you through the stressful process. At Sodhi Law, we strive to ensure that we get the best possible outcome for your case. Contact us to book your appointment call us at (905) 457-2546.