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742 From arrest to trial: Overview Following an arrest, a person charged with an offence may appear in court a number of times before attending their actual trial. The accused may be required to attend court for a bail hearing, a set date, a preliminary hearing, and pre-trial hearings or motions.
- Bail hearingTo begin, once you have been arrested and taken to the police station, the police will either hold you in custody or let you leave the police station. You should contact a lawyer immediately because it is very important to get legal advice as soon as possible. If the police decide to hold you in custody at the police station, they must bring you to a Justice of the Peace for a bail hearing within 24 hours after you were arrested, or as soon as possible. At the bail hearing, the Justice of the Peace will decide whether you should be released, or held in custody until your trial. You are entitled to have a lawyer represent you at the bail hearing.
If you are released, the Justice of the Peace may impose certain conditions, and may require that you have a surety to sign on your behalf. You will also be given a paper that tells you when and where to be in court to set a date for your trial. You are entitled to full disclosure of the Crown's case against you and it must be ordered through the Crown's office. There are order forms for disclosure in every Crown's office.
If you are not released on bail, you will be held in a detention centre until your trial. However, it is sometimes possible to seek release through a Bail review brought in a higher court.
- Set date court appearanceIf the police allow you to leave, they will give you a paper, which is a notice that tells you when and where you have to be in court. In this document you may find conditions attached to your release such as not communicating with the alleged victim of the crime. The first court appearance is called your set date because the judge will set a date for your trial. Generally, no date is set for trial until complete disclosure has been received. This may take several weeks and in complicated cases such as a fraud, it may take months. In some cases a pre-trial will be required where the defense and prosecutor along with a Judge sort out the legal and factual issues of the trial.
- Preliminary hearingA preliminary hearing is a court proceeding, but is different from a trial. In a preliminary hearing, the Crown prosecutor has only to convince the judge that there is enough evidence that a Judge could find you guilty. In the majority of cases, a trial will be ordered, and scheduled to take place several months later in the Superior Court of Justice.
Depending on the nature of your case, there may also be pre-trial motions or hearings, that take place immediately before your trial. These often deal with a number of technical legal issues, such as the admission of evidence and the protection of your legal rights under the Charter of Rights.
The exact procedure from arrest to trial will vary depending on the offence. If you have been charged with an offence, you should consult a lawyer as soon as possible.
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