June 15, 2024

Canadian criminal justice system has zero tolerance for crime. The process starts with an arrest and can conclude with an appeal. For this, you can seek advice from criminal lawyers in Canada to get justice.

Here, we overview the steps for understanding the criminal justice system so that you can take precautions if something happens to you beforehand.

8 Steps for Understanding the Criminal Justice System in Canada

Here, we will walk you through step by step to understand the criminal justice system.


Criminal justice begins with an arrest. If you have committed a crime, the police must gather all the strong evidence and witness statements to put you behind bars. After being arrested, the accused is either released with a notice or brought before a judge.

There are three things mentioned in the document: the crime you have committed, its nature and date, time and place for the appearance.

Bail Hearing

You must appear in court within 24 hours of arrest for a bail hearing. The judge will decide whether to release you or hold you in custody. 

You can often only be kept in custody for one of three reasons:

  • Show up for court appearances
  • Public safety and protection
  • To keep the public’s trust in the administration of justice

If the judge releases you, he must have set some conditions for you. However, you can hire a lawyer at the bail hearing.


In Canada, the charges are laid by the police based on the evidence. The charges can be from minor offences like traffic violations to serious offences like murder. Note that the charges are just allegations and not determined as guilt.

Furthermore, the accused can offer a fair trial and be proven innocent until found guilty. The court will give the court appearance date when the person is charged. All the allegations are presented in a document called ‘Information’ or ‘Summons.’ 

On the other hand, the court must prove the accused’s crime. If the accused is guilty, the judge will decide what sentence will apply to the committed crime. 

First Appearance

The first appearance is the initial court appearance. It allows you to determine how you want to proceed with your case. You do not have to prove innocence or provide evidence. But if you fail to appear, you will be charged with another offence.

Moreover, you may need more time to review the evidence. The court will set a trial date if they do not plead guilty. Also, you will have the chance to provide the court with the appropriate sentence submissions if you enter a guilty plea. You’ll describe your background and the circumstances that led to the crime.

Pretrial Hearing

It is a meeting between the defence, the prosecution and the judge before a trial commences. The main purpose of the pretrial is to encourage settling cases. The judge may punish a party for failing to show up. The judge and the lawyers clarify the issues by providing the evidence.

As a result, various papers may be submitted, including evidence and more, throughout this hearing. The time between the pre-trial and the trial might range from 30 days to 2 years, depending on the circumstances.


Once the issues have been resolved, the trial will happen on the appointed date. The trial period will presume the complexity of the offence of the accused. On the day of trial, a judge or a jury will hear evidence from the defence.

Low-priority case takes 1-2 days, whereas complicated cases may take weeks or even months. Here you have an opportunity to prove your innocence.


The judge decides the sentence. The court may request a pre-sentence report or an independent review of the case’s history before making a decision. Both the defence and the crown attorneys are permitted to recommend sentences.

Although the judge considers these suggestions, the judge ultimately determines the sentence. The sentence includes fines, probation, imprisonment or community service.


The accused or the Crown may appeal the decision if they are unhappy with how the case turned out. It is a request to the higher court to change the verdict. A higher court will hear the appeal and decide whether to affirm or reverse the initial judgment.

In addition, the Crown may appeal the verdict if he thinks the sentence does not fit the crime. The defence attorney also has the right to appeal a sentence if they feel it is unjustly harsh. Note that you can not appeal a decision just because the Crown or defence attorney disagrees. Appeals must be based on the errors.


In summary, the Canadian criminal justice system is complicated and comprehensive. It offers several legal protections and safeguards to ensure that the accused is given a fair and impartial hearing from the time of the arrest to the possibility of an appeal. However, you can always seek advice from a legal professional.

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