The Progress of a Calgary Criminal Defence Case: Part One

This is the first in a series of articles detailing some of the steps that occur in a Calgary criminal defence case, from a police investigation through the end of a criminal trial in the Calgary courts. Keep checking back for more information, or contact an experienced Calgary criminal defence lawyer if you have any questions that aren't answered here.

Criminal and drug cases in Calgary can begin with a complaint to police and a subsequent investigation by a law enforcement agency, or simply with an investigation conducted by law enforcement. Whether an investigation is sparked by a complaint or originates within a law enforcement agency, the result may be an arrest and the charging of an individuals with a criminal or drug offence.

Every case is unique; the individual details of the accused person, of the specific criminal act(s) they are accused of, and of the dynamic between the accused and their criminal defence lawyer is different in each and every case. An effective criminal defence lawyer recognizes this and acts accordingly.

There's still some general information that may be applicable to criminal and drug cases that's worth knowing, though; both criminal defence lawyers and criminal defendants or accused persons need an understanding of the basic phases of a criminal defence case. We'll start at the very beginning, and walk you through what you might expect as a criminal case makes its way from a complaint and/or investigation to verdict, and sometimes beyond.

Calgary Criminal Charges Originate with Calgary Law Enforcement
According to Canada's Department of Justice and the long-running philosophy behind criminal justice the world over, criminal offences are, by definition, harmful to society as a whole. Clear and established societal harm, in other words, is what makes something a crime.

When society is harmed by a crime, or allegedly harmed by an alleged crime, the appropriate response is to have society provide a fair and transparent way to examine the circumstances, determine what happened, and proceed in a way that is best for the community as a whole. The whole purpose of the criminal justice system is to ensure the best outcome for a community impacted by crime. This is why typical criminal and drug charges are brought not by private citizens but by established and rule-bound community representatives.

In Canada, the community is represented by various agencies, offices, and persons; when it comes to the initial investigation of crimes and the decision of whether or not to lay criminal charges or accusations against an individual, the community is represented by the police and other law enforcement agencies. In Calgary specifically, the Calgary Police Service is primarily responsible for investigating most alleged crimes, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) in Calgary are also involved in many investigations.

Communities Protect Crime Victims and the Criminally Accused
The role of the community, and of Calgary law enforcement agencies, in criminal investigations and criminal cases is to protect everyone in the community, including those who are accused of a crime. Procedural rules for conducting an investigation and determining when to proceed with criminal charges work to ensure fairness to prevent innocent people from facing the ordeal of a criminal defence and to ensure everyone accused of a crime is given the benefit of the doubt during an investigation.

The system isn't perfect, and there have been purposeful abuses and honest mistakes that have resulted in a miscarriage of justice, but in general a criminal or drug defence case begins with a complaint followed by a law enforcement investigation that yields substantial evidence of a crime having been committed. When law enforcement feels it has sufficient and compelling evidence, it will move ahead with a criminal charge a phase we'll discuss in our next installment.