Stages of a Criminal Case in Canada

Individuals who are accused of committing criminal offences often struggle to understand the complex nature of the criminal justice system in Canada. Knowing the procedural rules that the Crown must follow can help the accused develop a sound case strategy.

A knowledgeable criminal defence lawyer can help you prepare for every stage of your criminal case in Canada.


The initial stage of the criminal process is an arrest. Law enforcement may charge you with a crime after a criminal suspect is arrested. However, law enforcement agencies must have substantial evidence to convict an individual of a crime. Police reports, witness statements, and medical records may be used as evidence in criminal cases.

After being arrested, the suspect may be released with a promise to appear, or an appearance notice. A criminal suspect may also be released on a summons or a recognizance.

An arrestee may be held in custody until they are brought before a judge. If an arrestee is released, they should have a document stating the date, time, and place of their first appearance, the nature of the charges against them, and the specific crime charged against the arrestee.

Bail Hearing

A bail hearing is held to demonstrate why the accused should remain in custody. The judge must determine if the criminal act will be repeated by the suspect. Also, the judge must determine if the identity of the suspect is known and if the suspect will appear for their trial. Lastly, the judge must decide if all the evidence related to the case has been obtained. The prosecution and the crown attorney must set forth arguments explaining why the suspect should remain in custody.

Bail hearings are often used to make sure the suspect attends mandatory court appearances. Protecting the public is also an important policy reason behind bail hearings.

It may be necessary for the administration of justice for a suspect to be released on bail. A bail hearing is also necessary because law enforcement officers may be engaged in an ongoing criminal investigation regarding the suspect.

First Appearance

The suspect does not need to provide evidence or establish their innocence during their first appearance. The first appearance most often takes place in Provincial Court, during which, the suspect can explain to the court how they want to proceed with their case. The summons notice contains the time and date of the next court appearance. If the suspect fails to appear at their next court appearance, they risk facing additional criminal charges. Missing a court appearance may also result in a suspect’s arrest.

A suspect can state whether they want to review the evidence presented against them or consult with their criminal defence lawyer. Entering a plea of not guilty will result in a trial date being set in Provincial Court, or a preliminary inquiry being scheduled in Supreme Court.

Entering a guilty plea results in the suspect having the opportunity to present sentencing submissions to the court. The suspect can inform the court about what caused the suspect to commit the crime. Also, the suspect can provide information to the court about their employment history and academic background.

A suspect may want to inform the court if they committed a crime after being threatened.

Pretrial Preparation

If a suspect enters a plea of not guilty, and a trial date is set, the suspect will need to consult with their criminal defence lawyer and start pretrial preparation. A criminal defence lawyer will discuss disclosure with the suspect and review the trial strategy. A criminal suspect may or may not choose to be questioned on the witness stand. However, if the suspect does choose to be questioned on the witness stand, a criminal defence lawyer will prepare the suspect for questioning.

Pretrial conferences are often held before trial. The Crown, the criminal defence lawyer, and the judge meet to discuss various matters related to the case and whether all disclosure has been received.

The criminal suspect may also require a preliminary inquiry before trial. The preliminary inquiry is held to assess whether enough evidence justifies a trial. Dealing with these matters can be overwhelming without the assistance of a knowledgeable criminal defence lawyer.

The Trial

A trial will be scheduled after all formalities and pretrial matters have been assessed. A trial may vary depending on whether the case will be heard before a judge or a jury. Also, a trial will take into account the nature and complexity of the criminal offence, as well as the total number of witnesses that may be asked to testify during the trial.

Relatively straightforward trials may only last one or two days, whereas more complex trials may last weeks or months. Court trials are open to the public in Canada. A trial transcript will be produced, and becomes a part of the public record.

During the trial, the Crown Prosecutor will call the first witnesses. The suspect will then have the opportunity to cross-examine the witnesses. The Crown Prosecutor must prove that the suspect was directly or indirectly involved in the crime, that the suspect intended to commit the crime, and that all the elements of the crime are proven.

The Crown Prosecutor must adhere to the “beyond a reasonable doubt” evidentiary standard. This means that the Crown Prosecutor must prove the above elements beyond a reasonable doubt. If the jury or judge is not convinced by the Crown Prosecutor’s evidence and arguments, then the judge or jury cannot find the suspect guilty.

Verdict and Sentencing

The jury or judge gives the verdict after analyzing every piece of evidence presented during the trial. The suspect may be acquitted of the charges against them, and may then leave the court. However, the suspect may also be convicted of criminal charges, and will need to wait to be sentenced by the judge. The suspect will remain in custody until the sentence is decided in court.

The Crown or the suspect may disagree with the verdict set forth by the court, and either party may appeal the verdict. The higher court may either dissolve the sentence or confirm the sentence. The higher court does not conduct a new trial, but instead analyzes the case to determine if the lower court made mistakes that warrant a new trial.

Contact Vilkhov Law

Contact our team at Vilkhov Law today at (647) 977-5852 to schedule a free consultation. We have experience in assisting clients at every stage of their criminal trials. We can work to secure your release and help you navigate the criminal justice system, and help you gather evidence that supports your case before speaking to the Crown on your behalf.

Reach out to Vilkhov Law today if you are seeking the help of an experienced criminal defence lawyer.

By |2023-08-11T10:32:54+00:00January 17th, 2023|Criminal Defence|

5/5 - (2 votes)

Criminal Lawyers Association
Toronnto Lawyers Association
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Criminal Lawyers Association
Toronnto Lawyers Association
Law Society of Ontario
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