I’ve Been Arrested, What Should I Expect?
We all react differently to stressful situations which, suddenly, and usually without warning take us way out of our comfort zone.
We find ourselves in a strange new world filled with unfamiliar terms, unknown procedures and potentially devastating consequences waiting for us at the end of the road.
So it is with our experiences in the criminal justice system. We all find ourselves confronted with the need to make crucial decisions fast, and almost always without the proper source of information that we can easily understand.
So here’s what happens next after you have been arrested and charged with an offence under the Criminal Code of Canada, or any of the many other criminal and quasi-criminal provincial or federal statutes such as The Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.
The Release Process
- You have or hopefully will have been released on bail or an Undertaking to Appear in court.
- On or usually before your first court appearance, depending on what you have been charged with, you will be required to provide your finger-prints pursuant to the Identification of Criminals Act. Unfortunately, at this early stage, you have no option but to comply with this requirement.
Your First Court Appearance
At your first court appearance you will be asked by the judge or the presiding Crown Attorney if you have retained a lawyer yet. And if you haven’t, your case is generally adjourned (postponed) for approximately one month to allow you to contact the criminal lawyer and arrange to have that lawyer appear on your next court date. Your criminal lawyer can prepare a document known as a Designation of Counsel, which will allow him or her to appear on your behalf without the necessity of your being in court at that time.
- Disclosure or partial disclosure of the Prosecution’s case against you may be given to you or your lawyer on the first or second court appearance. It is crucially important that your lawyer obtains and reviews this material as soon as possible.
- An early review of the disclosure material can often make the difference between being found guilty or not guilty of the charge or charges you are facing. In the world of criminal law, preparation is everything.
For example, your lawyer may want to hire a private investigator who is highly experienced in obtaining witness statements and often from witnesses that were not immediately known at the time the crime was alleged to have been committed. The names of these witnesses may be revealed in the Crown’s Brief, which becomes part of the disclosed material.
And so you might ask, what exactly is disclosure?
Quite simply, disclosure is the material and process whereby the Prosecution provides notice to you and your criminal defence lawyer of the evidence they will present at trial, if in fact your case goes that far.
This disclosure usually contains the statements in written or video format of the witnesses that the Prosecution may rely on to help prove their case against you. This potential evidence is gathered for them by the investigating police officers and of course, contains the relevant pages of their police notebooks.
What evidence can be used for and against you?
It is very important for you to know that not all evidence collected by the police or offered by the Crown Attorney at trial will be admissible. That is to say, will it be able to be considered by the presiding trial judge as facts that can help determine your guilt or innocence, or the extent and degree of your criminal involvement for possible sentencing purposes.
An experienced criminal lawyer will have the knowledge and skills to recognize these evidentiary problems and successfully challenge them, sometimes with the help of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The Pre-Trial Stage
Your criminal lawyer is understanding of these disclosure issues; and her/his complete knowledge of your personal circumstances and especially your version of the events surrounding the charge is crucial. This, along with other factors will be used in attempting to resolve your case at the earliest possible opportunity. We at The Criminal Law Team will strive to keep your best interests in mind, having regard to your need to maintain your liberty and to avoid a criminal record if at all possible.
The Crown Pre-Trial / Crown Resolution Meeting
- This is a meeting between your criminal lawyer and the Crown Attorney to make sure all disclosure has been given out and to explore the possibility of resolving your case without the need of proceeding to trial.
Often another pre-trial meeting is required depending on the positions of both the Crown Attorney and your criminal lawyer as to how your case may be resolved.
- If a trial is required, all the issues that determine how it will proceed and how long it will take will be thoroughly canvassed during the pre-trial process.
Obviously, getting the most experienced and skilled lawyer will be a huge factor in determining the outcome of your case. And this outcome is a product of the representation that is advanced at each stage of the criminal court process.
At The Criminal Law Team we welcome the opportunity of serving you to the very best of our abilities, and we are totally committed to obtaining the successful outcome you and your case deserve.