Helpful Definitions

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Persons in the Courtroom

Assistant Crown Attorney
The person who represents society in court and is prosecuting your matter.
Court Clerk
A person who assists the judge or the justice of the peace in the court.
Defence Counsel, Lawyer, Attorney
Licenced person who represents and defends the person charged criminally.
Defendant/Accused
The person who is charged with criminal charges and who is presumed innocent until a finding of guilt.
Duty Counsel
A lawyer, provided by the government, to assist people in criminal courts for bail hearings, pleading guilty and adjourning their matter. They also provide free legal advice, when someone is arrested and being held at the police station.
Judge
a person who has been a lawyer for at least 10 years and can hear bail, trials or guilty pleas, sign search warrants.
Justice of the Peace
A person, although not necessarily a lawyer, who can hear bail hearings, set date matters, and provincial offence trials (such as speeding tickets), and sign search warrants
Paralegal
A licensed person, who can represent persons charged with summary conviction matters, where the penalty is not more than 6 months jail.
Officer in Charge (O.I.C)
the police officer that is preparing the Crown’s brief of materials, when someone is t criminally charged.
Surety
Someone who attends courts, pledges money and promises to supervise a person criminally charged, so that they do not have to stay in custody. The surety can lose this pledged money, if the person does not follow the conditions of the court and the surety does not report them, to the police. They are the jailer in the community.

Documents

Bail/ Recognizance/ Surety Release
A legal paper that defines a Accused’s behaviour after they have been criminally charged. Issued from the criminal courts or police station.
Criminal/Youth Record
A document kept by the Federal Government, detailing all of an accused findings of guilt, convictions, peace bond or withdrawn charges. This document may be used every time an accused appears before the court for bail, trial or sentencing, unless a pardon has been granted.
Crown Brief
The Crown’s file of your charges prepared by the police.
Disclosure
A package provided in court of police officers’ notes, witness statements, photographs, videos, diagrams, which is the case against someone charged.
Indictment
A legal paper, usually signed by the Assistant Crown Attorney, which gives the court jurisdiction to hear a matter, before a Superior Court of Justice. (See also Information)
Information
A legal paper which is sworn by a police officer and confirmed by a Justice of the Peace or Judge. This document, sets out the charges, someone is facing, where and when it occurred, and gives the court jurisdiction (ability) to address an accused in court.

Court Proceedings

Adjournment
A rescheduling of an appearance in court to another date in order to move the case along, it may be to obtain a lawyer, get disclosure, or get further disclosure.
Bail Variation
A request to change one or more conditions of a bail/ recognizance.
Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms
“The Charter” determines how the police and the courts are to treat the accused, during an investigation, arrest, pretrial or trial proceedings.
Criminal Record
Criminal findings of guilt and convictions that are entered on a youth or adult record. This may also reflect discharges and peace bonds.
Crown PreTrial/ Resolution Meeting (C.P.T.)
A meeting with a lawyer (either duty counsel or private), representing an accused and the Crown, either on the telephone or in person, to discuss issues such as missing disclosure, trial length. A plea position, may also be discussed, ie what the Crown would seek in terms of penalty if the accused were going to plead guilty to some/all of the charges (such as amount of custody, probation, weapons prohibition, DNA sample, fine).
 
Defense
Possible legal excuses to criminal charges, such as mistake, self defence, duress
Discharge (Absolute or Conditional)
A finding of guilt by a Judge, which will appear on a criminal record. A conditional discharge will have a period of probation. Diversion a way to have criminal charges (for youth or adults) dealt with outside of the regular court system, either by way of community service, a donation or other means. For youth, it may be called Extra Judicial Sanctions.
Election
The Crown will chose how they will proceed on your criminal charges, either by way of summary conviction or indictment.
Extra Judicial Sanctions
a way for a young person to deal with their charge(s) outside of the regular criminal court system.
Fail To Comply/Breach (Recognizance)
An allegation that an accused failed to follow the conditions of release/bail.
Fail to Appear
An allegation that you did not attend court when scheduled or to have your prints taken.
 
 
Indictable Offences
A type of criminal charge that is punished more severely by the court. These type of charges can be tried before a judge and jury (such as murder, break & enter, robbery, firearm offences). Usually a preliminary hearing is held, to make sure there is enough evidence to go to trial. Maximum sentence is life
 
Judicial PreTrial (J.P.T.)
A formal meeting between your lawyer, the Crown and a Judge to deal with your criminal charges. At this meeting a discussion may occur about pleading guilty, the length of time it will take for trial, and missing disclosure.
Peace Bond
A promise to obey certain conditions, such as stay away from a particular person or address for a period of time.
Pleading Guilty
Accepting criminal responsibility before a Judge, this will result in a finding of guilt and possibly a criminal record.
Preliminary Hearing
Where the Crown shows that there is enough evidence to go to trial, on matters that are proceeding by way of indictment
Probation
A sentence ordered by a judge for a person requiring reporting to a probation officer and following conditions, such as keep the peace, no weapons.
Retainer
Paying your lawyer fully to appear in court and deal with your charges, either through legal aid or privately in cash.
Set Date
An appearance in a specific court room at a specific time to have your criminal matter dealt with or spoken to. If you are under 18 years old, it is best to have an adult such as a parent, or relative with you.
Sentencing
A determination by the judge, after presentations by both Crown and Defence Counsel, and the accused as to the appropriate sentence which could include, jail, fine, probation, restitution.
Summary Conviction Offences
A type of criminal charge that are punished less severely than other types of charges, such as theft under, mischief, assault. The maximum sentence is 18 months of jail.
Trial
A contested hearing where the Crown attempts to prove the charges, beyond a reasonable doubt. The Crown calls witnesses, presents documents, or photographs. Defence Counsel, can cross examine the witnesses, and challenge the documents or photographs, and may provide a defence to the charges through their witnesses. The judge makes a decision as to whether the accused is guilty or not guilty (acquittal)

Applicable Acts
(For Criminal/Quasi Criminal Charges)

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms

Canadian Evidence Act

Criminal Code of Canada

Controlled Drugs and Substances Act

Extradition Act

Goods and Services Act

Firearms Act

Highway Traffic Act

Immigration Act

Ontario Evidence Act

Provincial Offences Act

Youth Criminal Justice Act

 

The material in this pamphlet is not intended as legal advice. It merely conveys general information on legal issues commonly encountered by persons facing criminal charges in Canada. If you are charged with an offence, you should contact a criminal lawyer – immediately.