criminal prosecution

The Steps in a Criminal Prosecution

Being charged with a criminal offence is a scary and confusing event in the accused person's life.  

This is especially true if the person has never experienced it before.  The following are the general steps in a criminal prosecution.


1.  Laying of the Charge

The laying of the charge is often left to the police without any input from the Crown Attorney's Office.  Once a person is charged with a criminal offence the process begins.

2.  Release on a Recognizance with or without a surety or Undertaking to Peace Officer

After the accused has been charged he or she will be released from the police station or at the scene of the arrest.  Otherwise, he or she will be transported to court for a bail hearing.

3.  Bail Hearing

Typically when an accused person is held for a bail hearing that bail hearing will take place before a Justice of a Peace.  After hearing the evidence and submissions from both the Crown Attorney and the Defence Counsel the Justice will release the accused or detain the accused.  Either way the accused person will receive a first court appearance post bail hearing.  If the charge is very serious the bail haring will be held before a Superior Court Judge IE if the accused is charged with murder.

4.  Pretrial Hearings

There are a number of court appearances where the accused person will receive the disclosure / evidence against him or her.  After reviewing the disclosure the Defence Counsel will conduct a Crown Resolution Meeting.

5.  Crown Resolution Meeting

At the Crown Resolution Meeting the lawyers will discuss issues in the case and attempt to resolve the matter if possible.  Otherwise they will estimate the length of trial.

6.  Judicial Pretrial

A judicial pretrial is not necessary or mandatory for all criminal prosecutions.  However, when required both lawyers for the Crown and Defence will meet with a judge who will not by the trial judge; they will have frank and open discussions regarding the matter.  At the judicial pretrial issues for trial will be discussed and resolution options will be canvassed.

7.  Guilty Plea

If the accused accepts responsibility for any charge then there will be a guilty plea before a Judge.  Sometimes matters that begin as criminal charges are plead down to other non criminal charges.

8.  Preliminary Hearing

Some serious criminal charges have the option of having a preliminary hearing before a Judge at the Ontario Court of Justice.  The matter may be resolved at this stage or if any evidence exists that may lead to a finding of guilty the matter will move forward to a trial at the Ontario Superior Court of Justice.

9.  Trial

If the matter cannot be resolved before trial a trial is held.  In most cases a trial is held at the Ontario Court of Justice before a Judge.  In more serious cases the accused will have a choice to have his or her trial before a Superior Court Judge or a Jury.  After the trial there will be a finding of guilt or innocence.  In rare instances there will be a mistrial and a new trial will be ordered.

8.  Sentencing

If the accused person is found guilty of any offence then the Trial Judge will sentence the accused.

9.  Appeal

In rare situations, the accused person or the Crown Attorney's Office may decided to appeal the decision of a lower court Judge to a higher court.  Depending on where the trial was held the appeal may be to the Ontario Superior Court of Justice or the Court of Appeal for Ontario.  In exceptional cases a decision of the Ontario Court of Appeal may be appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada.

10.  Pardons

A person convicted of a summary conviction offence can apply for a Record Suspension after 5 years of his or her sentence completion otherwise if he or she is convicted of an indictable offence the wait period is 10 years.