The Progress of a Calgary Criminal Defence Case: Part Two

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This is the second 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 experienced Calgary criminal defence lawyer Susan Karpa for a free initial consultation.

In Part One of this article, you learned that criminal cases in Calgary—and in Canada at large—begin with a law enforcement investigation that is sparked by an initial complaint or through the uncovering of potential criminal acts in the normal course of police duty. Whether the investigation lasts an hour or a year, the decision to lay criminal charges will be made by law enforcement when they feel the investigation has warranted it.

Charges Laid: The Official Start of a Criminal Defence Case

Law enforcement agents and agencies do not determine guilt or innocence—just because they determined there was enough evidence of a crime to make an arrest and/or charge someone with a criminal offence does not necessarily mean the Calgary prosecutor's office will proceed with a case, and it certainly doesn't mean the accused person is guilty. In fact, the presumption of innocence is one of the foundations of Canadian criminal law, and does not end until guilt is established through admission or by a trial.

The laying of a criminal charge means just that: a criminal charge has been laid by law enforcement. This is where the Crown prosecutors become involved, and can be considered the official start of a criminal defence case within the Calgary court system. Prosecutors decide if and how to proceed with a case according to the rules and obligations spelled out in the law, and accused persons—often with the advice of a criminal defence lawyer, which all accused persons in Canada have a right to—determine how to respond to the prosecution's decisions and actions.

Summary Conviction Offences vs. Indictable Offences

There are two basic kinds of criminal charges in the Canadian criminal justice system. Minor or less severe infractions, while still considered criminal offences, are termed "summary conviction offences;" these cases are typically tried in front of a provincial court judge. In addition to Calgary, there are several neighboring or nearby jurisdictions that also have provincial criminal courts. Those jurisdictions include Airdrie, Cochrane, Okotoks, Turner Valley, Didsbury, Canmore, Siksika, Strathmore, and Drumheller.

Indictable offences are more serious criminal charges, and the accused person (with the advice of a criminal defence lawyer, when they so choose) may have the right to have their case tried by a provincial court judge, by a superior court judge, or by a judge and jury in a superior court. Depending on a variety of circumstances surrounding a criminal defence case, there may or may not be a preliminary hearing to determine if an indictable offence will proceed to a full trial. Guilty verdicts in cases involving indictable offences can carry more severe punishments than those for summary conviction offences.

Whether your criminal defence case will proceed as a summary conviction offence or an indictable offence depends on the type of criminal charge you face, with some leeway for prosecutorial decision-making within legal guidelines. Knowing what type of charge you're facing can help you determine how to best proceed with your defence, and no matter what type of charge you're up against you are entitled to consult with a criminal defence lawyer to help you make your decisions and to help you [present your case to law enforcement, to the Crown prosecutors, and to the judges and juries of the Calgary-area courts.

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