The Criminal Code is a comprehensive legal document that outlines an array of charges that an individual may face. It also integrates various other statutes, such as the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, which further establishes criminal liability. The Criminal Code is our guiding document, and our Ontario-based criminal lawyers, with their vast experience, can assist you in understanding each section within it.
Felonies Vs. Misdemeanors And Indictable Offences Vs. Summary Conviction Crimes
The lawyers of Bytensky Shikhman bring to the table a wealth of experience in defending individuals facing a broad spectrum of criminal charges, ranging from minor allegations like shoplifting to serious charges like murder. This broad spectrum includes property offences, frauds, drug offences, and sexual assaults, among many other types of offences.
Many clients are perplexed by the nature of the crime they are charged with and wish to know if they are facing a felony or a misdemeanor. These are American terms that do not directly apply to Canadian criminal law or the Canadian Criminal Code, but they do have rough equivalents in our justice system.
In Canada, every charge in the Criminal Code can be divided into three categories:
- Summary Conviction Offences: These are lesser crimes roughly equivalent to American misdemeanors. A summary conviction offence carries a maximum penalty of less than two years in jail. In Ontario, these crimes are prosecuted before a Judge in the Ontario Court of Justice.
- Indictable Offences: These are more serious crimes roughly equivalent to American felonies. An indictable offence can carry significant penalties, up to a term of life in prison. Given the seriousness of indictable offences and the potential penalties, the accused generally has three choices for their mode of trial. Cases can be kept in the Ontario Court of Justice with a Provincial Court Judge, just like summary conviction offences, or the client can choose to have a preliminary hearing in the Ontario Court of Justice. If the client chooses to conduct a preliminary inquiry, the trial will then take place in the Superior Court of Justice. These trials can take place before a judge alone or before a judge and jury. The choice of what mode to select for indictable trials involves many complex and competing interests. The lawyers at Bytensky Shikhman have extensive experience with all modes of trial at both levels of court and we will discuss the pros and cons of each choice in detail with our clients before settling on the particular strategy that is most appropriate for their unique set of circumstances.
- Hybrid Offences: Many offences in the Criminal Code are known as “hybrids” – meaning the Crown Attorney has the right to choose whether to proceed with the case as a less serious summary conviction offence or the more serious indictable case. This choice will be made after considering the offender’s previous criminal record (if any) and the specific facts of a given case. As the choice between summary and indictable modes can have a significant impact on a client’s sentence if they are found guilty, our lawyers begin lobbying the crown at a very early stage to convince the crown to make a summary election whenever possible. The mode of trial can also impact how soon a convicted client can apply for a Record Suspension (formerly known as a Pardon). Perhaps most importantly, the mode of trial can have a significant impact on mandatory minimum sentences. This is particularly true in cases of impaired driving (DUI) and child pornography.
A criminal lawyer will make every effort to answer your questions promptly and personally – you will not be shuffled around through layers of staff. When our lawyers are in court, our office staff will respond to your concerns immediately and professionally. Bytensky Shikhman welcomes the opportunity to be your Ontario Criminal Lawyer. Don’t waste time, call now to consult with us.
What is ‘Disclosure’?
The term ‘disclosure’ is commonly used to describe all the information the Crown and police have about your case. The Crown is obligated to disclose all this information to you as part of your constitutional right to make full answer and defence to the charges you stand accused of. Disclosure contains items such as:
- A synopsis of the allegations
- Witness statements
- Surveillance and CCTV footage
- Police officer notebooks
- Medical records
- Financial records
What is a CPT?
A CPT is a crown pre-trial. A CPT is a meeting between your lawyer and a Crown attorney assigned to your case. In some jurisdictions, these are called Early Resolution Meetings. At a CPT the lawyers will discuss if there is any possibility of resolving your file or will begin to discuss trial issues, if your matter is likely to go to trial.
What is a JPT?
A JPT is a judicial pre-trial. A JPT is a meeting between your lawyer, the Crown attorney, and a judge. Judicial pre-trials are used to iron out the details of a trial if that is where your matter is headed. If there is a possibility of resolution but the lawyers cannot agree on a sentence, they may also seek the judge’s input on a potential sentence.
When will the Crown withdraw charges?
Crown counsel have an obligation to screen charges at every stage of the criminal process to determine:
- If there is a reasonable prospect of conviction; and
- Whether there is a public interest in proceeding
There will be no prospect of conviction where there are frailties in the Crown’s evidence such that the Crown could not win at trial. If there is no reasonable prospect of conviction, the Crown must withdraw the charges.
Where there is a reasonable prospect of conviction, the Crown must still consider whether there is a public interest in pursuing the charges. To determine if there is a public interest in pursuing the charges, the Crown consider factors such as the seriousness of the charges, the vulnerability of the complainant, the length and expense of a trial in comparison to the seriousness of the charges, the accused’s criminal record if any, and whether the consequences of a conviction would be unduly harsh to the accused. Where there is no public interest in proceeding, your charges must be withdrawn.
What are some of the consequences of having a criminal record?
A criminal record has many serious consequences. It can affect your ability to work, volunteer, and travel to other countries, especially the United States. If you are involved in family law proceedings, a criminal record may affect the Judge’s decision concerning custody and access to your children, particularly where you have been convicted of a domestic assault against your prior domestic partner. Additionally, if you are not a Canadian citizen, a criminal record can affect your immigration status and may even result in your deportation. It is important to speak to an experienced criminal defence lawyer to understand all the potential consequences before entering any guilty plea.