Why You Should Be Early For Criminal Court in Canada
Courthouses in the Greater Toronto Area and other urban areas in Canada are very busy. The lists are very long and there are many courtrooms.
If you are attending a criminal Court or Youth Justice Court in Canada you should come early. That means allowing yourself extra time for bad weather, bad traffic, finding the Courthouse, getting parked, and finding the right courtroom. Urban courthouses now have security devices at the entrance. Expect a queue just like the international airport.
Don't bring marijuana to Court. Don't bring knives, weapons, or sharp objects to Court. You will be detained. Your pocket knife will be taken from you and destroyed.
If you don't attend Court on time, the Judge or Justice of the Peace may issue a bench warrant for your arrest and if you are the accused you may be charged with Failure to Appear. On late arrival you may be arrested and held for a bail hearing. People who have a reputation for not attending Court on time have a hard time getting bail.
Just as importantly, you need to speak to your lawyer, one hour, or half an hour, or 15 minutes before Court starts. Speaking to your lawyer before Court is very important.
In a "set date Court" your lawyer won't want to put your name on the list of matters ready to be called until he or she sees you. It's very embarrassing for a lawyer's case to be called only to find the client isn't there. Your case may end up being placed at the bottom of the list. If your lawyer doesn't submit your name early to the Crown or clerk, you won't be called early. You'll sit for hours in a busy Court when you might have been called first or second.
In a trial Court, your lawyer can't play hardball in negotiations with the Crown if there's a problem with the Crown's case and you're absent. Your lawyer also can't get instructions from you on a plea to a lesser charge, a peace bond, or diversion/alternative measures. Your lawyer can't interview the witnesses you're bringing with you if you're not there. What your lawyer does in preparation and negotiations in the one-half hour before your trial starts is every bit as important as the trial itself.
If you're running late or you're caught in traffic call your lawyer's office or send a text and call the Court and let them know. It may save you a night in jail.
If your lawyer hasn't shown up and the trial starts in fifteen minutes phone your lawyer's office and find out where he or she is.
Don't be afraid to ask the Commissionaire, duty counsel, or someone else in authority to page your lawyer.
Don't take a coffee, smoke, or bathroom break unless the Judge orders a recess. Be back in the courtroom before the Judge at the end of the break.
These days people in busy Courthouses often must wait until 1 p.m. or 3 p.m. for their name to be called. We simply don't have enough Judges and courtrooms. People make the mistake of not coming to Court with a lawyer or lawyer's letter. Don't assume though that because your name is near the end of the alphabet that you can sleep in. Anyone can be called anytime and if you're not there, BENCH WARRANT! Come to Court early and be patient.
Stephen R. Biss, Barrister & Solicitor
470 Hensall Circle, Suite 303
905-273-3322 or 1-877-273-3322
Advertisement. Any legal opinions expressed at this site relate to the Province of Ontario, Canada only. If you reside or carry on business in any other jurisdiction please consult a lawyer, solicitor, or attorney in your own jurisdiction. WARNING: All information contained herein is provided for the purpose of providing basic information only and should not be construed as formal legal advice. The author disclaims any and all liability resulting from reliance upon such information. You are strongly encouraged to seek and retain professional legal advice before relying upon any of the information contained herein.