The Docket – First Court Appearance – Not Guilty by Jeff D. Bogaerts, Paralegal

In the first article of this series, I wrote about the procedures if you intended to plead guilty. Which, if this is the case, you have already paid the fine and gone home. Now that you have decided to plead Not Guilty, what do you do now?

As in the first article you have received your Summons To Appear, which tells you where and when to appear for court. Follow the procedures from the first article which then brings us to this point in time.

Your name has been called and you are now standing before the court, state your name. At this point, there will be a conversation between you, the Justice of the Peace, “Your Worship”, (or Judge, “Your Honour”) and the prosecution as to whether you are self-represented, have counsel or are seeking counsel.

If you are seeking counsel, then the JP, the prosecution and you will decide the date that you will return to court with your counsel to continue the case. This date could be from 2 to 6 weeks later depending on how busy the court is. You will hear the phrase “To be spoken to”, this is a standard phrase where the court will hear what the results are from a previous court appearance. In this case, your next appearance, “to be spoken to”, could be whether you have counsel or not or whether you have received disclosure or some other issue.

Before you leave the court, you must ask for “disclosure”. This is the document package that contains the evidence that the prosecution has about your case. Some courts will require that you write to them asking for disclosure, some courts have forms to fill out at the clerk’s desk asking for disclosure. Regardless of the procedure make sure you ask for disclosure in the court room before the JP and put it “on the record”.

Before completing your appearance and leaving court, ask this question of the prosecution so it too is on the record. How long it will take to “obtain disclosure”? Will I receive disclosure at my next appearance? How can I obtain disclosure before my next appearance? These are all reasonable questions and it is the responsibility of the prosecution to either have these answers or find out the answers and send them to you. It is important for you to communicate to the court and the prosecution. Get it in writing and on the record.

During this appearance, you may be asked to waive your “11b”. This is a reference to your Charter of Rights and Freedoms section 11b, your right to be tried within a reasonable time. The Supreme court has set out guidelines for how long a trial should take given the type of offence. I have included a link for further reading on this section of the charter. Do not waive your “11b”. You may answer the court by saying, “I am not prepared to waive my 11b at this time”. You should only waive your 11b when it is in your best interest to do so. We will discuss 11b in greater detail later in this series.

In review, you have set another court date, asked for disclosure, and not waived your charter 11b. Say, “Thank-you your Worship” and leave the courtroom. Do not forget to go to the Clerk’s office if you need to apply for disclosure.

This ends your first court appearance where you intend not to plead guilty. Now the work begins whether with self-representation or with counsel. Obtain your disclosure as soon as possible and when you get it, go over it in detail looking for any possible information that is missing that you need to defend your case. If information is missing you have the right to ask for it. You may not get it and this will require a charter of rights and freedoms motion before the court to argue to get it. This is another article in the series.

Upcoming articles in this journey will be, disclosure, counsel pre-trial, judicial pre-trial, motions and set date for trial.