The first appearance is usually a brief administrative appearance in Provincial Court. It is usually in front of a justice of the peace or judicial case manager, and not a judge. The first appearance is not a trial and you do not have to present evidence.
The following is what you can expect to happen at your first appearance:
- You find the right room
- You check in, usually by letting the sheriff or Crown Counsel know you are there. If you do not let the court know you are there, they may think you failed to show up and issue a warrant for your arrest.
- The Crown will call your name and ask you to come forward
- The Justice of the Peace will read the charges laid against you and ask if you understand them.
- The Crown will give you a package of documents called the disclosure or particulars. If they do not, ask the Crown for disclosure.
- The Justice of the Peace will ask if you plan on hiring a lawyer and if you need more time to do so.
Usually, you need time to review disclosure, find a lawyer, and to decide as to how you want to plead. Sometimes, the Crown needs more time to provide you with more disclosure. Your case may be adjourned a few weeks to allow you and the Crown more time.
After you are charged with an offence, the Crown has a duty to provide you with “disclosure” sometimes called the “particulars”. Disclosure means that the Crown must give you copies of all information and documents that are related to your case, including the charge and the Crown’s evidence against you. Disclosure will usually include:
- Information (an official court form which lists the offences)
- Initial sentencing position (sentence the Crown will ask for if you are convicted)
- Police reports, narrative, and notes
- Witness statements
- Transcripts, video, or copies of statements you made to police (if any)
- Photographs or copies of evidence
- Other relevant material.
Read the documents and check if you think they are complete or if you think that something is missing. You can request specific things if you think they should have been disclosed. The Crown may only withhold information from you if it is clearly irrelevant to your case or privileged.
It is best to have a defence counsel review your disclosure. They can tell you if something is missing and explain the evidence against you.
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