One of the most common mistakes made by Toronto criminal defence lawyers is not being proactive out of the gate. Many lawyers do not take active steps on a file until they receive initial disclosure from the Crown Attorney’s office. Sometimes this is almost 2 months after charges are laid; often they find that they have waited too long.
Instead, Robb and his colleagues know that there is no time to waste. In some cases, helpful evidence and key witnesses can only be located in the days immediately after an arrest is made. By hiring investigators (when necessary) and taking immediate steps to retrieve helpful evidence, Robb and his team put themselves in a position to explore all possible leads, which may help the Defendant.
A bail hearing is the first step an Accused must take on the Road to Freedom. After an Accused deals with his bail hearing, it can be many months before an Accused is brought to trial. This page details the various stages of the criminal process between an Accused’s bail hearing and his trial.
Criminal proceedings are prosecuted by government lawyers who represent either the Federal or the Provincial Crown Attorney. The resources of both federal and provincial prosecutors are vast.
Robb knows that a criminal defence lawyer must be at the top of his game to shield clients from undue harm and to ensure their rights are upheld.
In many cases, careful negotiation and planning at the outset, can result in charges being withdrawn against an Accused. However, when favourable resolutions cannot be reached, Robb’s approach is to take matters to trial. He does so with confidence.
After the bail hearing, accused parties are either detained in custody or released pending trial. Trial dates are typically set 8 months to a year after bail is addressed. If a client is detained in custody, he will typically be able to receive a faster trial date.
After bail is addressed, a Defendant will be asked to come back to court in 4 to 6 weeks time. This is usually how long it takes the government to prepare “disclosure”. Disclosure is essentially a summary of witness statements and copies of police officers’ notes (sometimes inclusive of videotaped (DVD) witness interviews, expert reports, and other forensic evidence).
If a Defendant retains a lawyer prior to his first appearance, the lawyer can attend the first appearance on behalf of the Defendant. Once the Lawyer has received the disclosure he can review the evidence and can begin finding weaknesses in the Crown’s case against the Defendant.
After the First Appearance, and after the lawyer has reviewed the disclosure, he is ready to make contact with the Crown Attorney’s office in order to conduct preliminary negotiations with the Crown Attorney. Sometimes these negotiations involve changing (or relaxing) bail conditions. In other cases, these early negotiations may immediately lead to talk of how to resolve or “settle” a case. Sometimes Defence counsel are able to receive very favourable positions from the Crown Attorney at this Stage of the Process. The crown may agree to stay or “drop” charges at this stage. Alternatively, the crown may agree to let the Accused earn a “discharge.” In some cases, discharges can be earned if an Accused agrees to participate in counseling or diversion. Diversion may require the Accused to complete community service hours or pay back monies to a complainant.
It is crucial that the Defence attorney is well prepared for the Crown Pretrial. Robb ensures that he thoroughly understands his clients’ backgrounds in order to present them in the best possible light to the Crown Attorney. By emphasizing the clients’ strengths or remorse or by illustrating the likelihood for their personal improvement, Robb puts his clients on better footing for bail variations, charge-withdrawals, or lenient sentences.
In certain circumstances, cases that do not resolve after a Crown Pretrial will proceed to one or more Judicial Pretrials (JPT). A JPT is a meeting involving the defence lawyer, the Crown Attorney, the Police Officer in Charge of the Case, and a Judge. Usually these meetings are held in the Judge’s chambers. Occasionally, they are held in court. The JPT allows the defence lawyer to discuss and negotiate the case with the Crown Attorney while receiving input from a Judge. If a Crown Attorney takes an unreasonable position at a Crown Pretrial, the defence lawyer may win over the Judge at the JPT. In these circumstances, the Judge may agree to accept the proposal (ie. for sentencing) being put forward by the defence lawyer, even without the Crown Attorney’s agreement. In other cases, the Judge’s input may convince the Crown Attorney to make more concessions or to accede to an agreement that the Judge deems fair.
Top defence lawyers recognize JPTs as an opportunity for useful negotiation. JPTs also may be a useful time for a defence lawyer to demonstrate weaknesses in the Crown Attorney’s case. If cases are unable to settle at the end of one or more JPTs, the case will proceed to trial.
A trial finally provides the Accused with an opportunity to formally deny or challenge the allegations against him. If an Accused is successful at trial he will be found “not guilty” and will be able to walk out of court as a free man while avoiding a criminal conviction on his record. However, if an Accused takes a matter all the way to trial and loses, the Crown will seek a punishment or sentence that is far more severe than what would have been offered to the Accused, had he plead guilty on an earlier date. Trials present an opportunity for huge rewards, if the defence is successful, and severe punishments if the defence fails. A wise Defendant will only go to trial with a confident and capable defence lawyer representing him.
A skilled trial lawyer will find weaknesses in the Crown’s case and will prepare to effectively attack that evidence at trial. Crown witnesses may lie or hide evidence. It takes skilled cross examination to uncover these details. Effective cross examination may expose significant weaknesses in the Crown’s evidence which may devastate the Crown’s case against the Accused. Skilled lawyers will also decide which, if any, evidence should be lead at trial on behalf of the Defendant.