First Appearance in Criminal Court – Myths and Facts

First Appearance in Criminal Court – Myths and Facts

I often get calls from individuals who are charged with criminal offences for the first time and are, not surprisingly, confused about how the court process works.  They are shocked to hear that a criminal court case can take over a year to complete; that the matter will not conclude at the first appearance, etc.  Here are some myths and facts about a first appearance in criminal court.

MYTH – A First Appearance is My Trial Date

A common misconception is that the first appearance in criminal court is a “trial date” (ie, a hearing at which one’s legal liability is litigated).    Rather, a first appearance is an administrative court appearance where there is no discussion about an individual’s case.  The main purpose of the first appearance is for an accused to obtain initial disclosure.  Disclosure is the evidence the the police have collected in the investigation and which they have provided to the Crown Attorney.  The other purpose of the appearance is for a Court to determine whether an accused has retained counsel or not.

MYTH – I Will Be Asked How I Wish to Plead at My First Appearance

Another misconception is the notion that an accused will be expected to enter a plea to the charges at the first appearance (called an “arraignment”).  This step in the criminal court process does not take place at a first court date in Ontario.  Instead, it takes place at a later date, such as when an accused has scheduled their matter for a guilty plea; a preliminary hearing or a trial.

FACT – In Most Cases, There Will Be One or More Subsequent Appearances

In the majority of criminal cases, there will be one or subsequent court appearances after the first appearance.  This is because individuals usually need time to (a) review disclosure; (b) retain a lawyer; (c) think about the Crown resolution offer that is usually listed within the initial disclosure package etc.   A common time interval between court dates is 3 or 4 weeks, but the duration may fluctuate depending on what the next step(s) is (or are).

Fore more information about first appearances in criminal court, contact Andrew Captan at (647) 878 – 6355.

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