Area of Law: Criminal Law
Answer # 740
Reporting crimes and having charges laidRegion: Ontario Answer # 740
Having a charge laid by a justice of the peace
Although the police will generally lay charges when they believe that an offence has been committed, in some circumstances they may be reluctant to proceed with legal action. If an offence is alleged to have been committed and the police will not lay a charge, any member of the public can take steps to have a charge laid by swearing an information before a justice of the peace. An information is simply a legal document that contains the details of the offence and chronicles the progress of the case through Provincial Court. If you have been charged with a crime, it is important to hire an experienced criminal defence lawyer as soon as possible.
Process to lay a charge through a justice of the peace
When you meet with the justice of the peace, you will have to explain what happened and swear an oath that you have good reason to believe that a criminal offence has been committed.
As per the Criminal Code, because the information is brought to the court by a private citizen, the justice of the peace must then refer it to a provincial court judge, or in Quebec, a judge of the Court of Quebec, or another designated justice of the peace, who will hold a special hearing to decide if the person you accused should be compelled to attend court and answer to the charge. If during the hearing the justice is satisfied that an offence was committed, the justice will issue a summons, which is a document that orders the person you accused to come to court on a certain day. The justice may also in some circumstances, issue a warrant to arrest that person.
If the justice does not believe you or does not believe that an offence has been committed, no legal action will be taken against the alleged offender. If charges are laid, at court, the Crown prosecutor will step in and take over the prosecution. If you are an essential witness you could receive a subpoena requiring you to attend court to give evidence on the matter. The subpoena will contain information about the date and courtroom you must attend.
If you have been charged with a crime, contact our preferred criminal defence experts, The Criminal Law Team .
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