How do I get bail?
Call Susan Karpa, bail condition lawyer to discuss your charge today.
If you have been charged with a criminal offence in Alberta and police do not want to give you what is called an officer release, you are entitled to a bail hearing within 24 hours of being arrested. All citizens have the right to reasonable bail, or judicial interim release, as guaranteed by s. 11(e) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Being “on bail” or “on release” refers to the time between when you are arrested and when the court reaches a verdict (guilty, not guilty, charges stayed or dismissed, etc.). All forms of release require you to attend your court dates personally or through a lawyer.
The Supreme Court of Canada has reminded courts across the country of the importance of granting bail after most arrests, noting: “it is important not to overlook the fact that, in Canadian law, the release of accused persons is the cardinal rule and detention, the exception.
How is bail granted in Alberta?
In most cases a justice of the peace or provincial court judge will oversee a hearing and decide on your bail. What “bail” means is essentially your release. If you are given bail, your release order sets out the date of your next court appearance, and any conditions you must comply with.
The court can choose to release you on a “promise to pay,” which means that you or another person has promised to pay a certain amount if you miss a court date or disobey a bail condition. The court also has the option to provide release with no financial obligation at all, but it will still be a criminal offence to miss court or disobey a condition.
When will my bail hearing take place?
First-appearance bail hearings with a justice of the peace are held throughout Alberta from 8 a.m. to midnight, 365 days a year. These hearings should be held within 24 hours of an arrest or preferably sooner, as our legal system recognizes that detention behind bars seriously impacts a person’s personal life and employment. Most bail hearings will last for 15 minutes or less and are held in English unless other arrangements have been made.
In any hearing, the justice of the peace will read the charge and confirm that you understand the alleged violation. This is not the time to dispute your innocence or guilt. Simply answer the questions you are asked since anything you say may be used against you later on.
Timely bail hearings are crucial. Information from the Public Prosecution Service of Canada notes that the granting or denial of bail “implicates the accused's liberty and security of the person interests protected by section 7 of the Charter, as well as the presumption of innocence in section 11(d).”
Do I have to attend court in person to get bail?
During the COVID-19 pandemic, first-appearance bail hearings can be done virtually through teleconferencing. If you have been arrested, you have the right to speak to a lawyer before you appear at a bail hearing.
How does the court determine what my bail will be?
The amount of bail required is determined by the seriousness of your charges. Another major consideration is if you have a criminal record. Since that record will increase the severity of your sentence if you are convicted, it also bumps up your bail costs. Likewise, if you have a history of not complying with court orders, your bail amount will be set higher.
Just because you have been accused of a crime does not mean that you should be subjected to unreasonable restrictions on your life and liberty. Bail is not a punishment, as everyone is presumed innocent until proven guilty in court.
How do I pay my bail?
If you are required to post money to secure your release, that money can be paid at any bail hearing office in Alberta (i.e., any courthouse). For example, if you are located in Edmonton and would like to pay bail for someone who is detained in Calgary, you can go to the Edmonton bail hearing office and make a payment. Bail hearing offices in major centres such as Calgary and Edmonton are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You can also make a bail payment at a remand centre during certain hours.
If you are detained and would like to pay your own bail, you can make a payment after you go in front of the justice of the peace or at police station.
Can someone else pay my bail?
Since it can be difficult for someone being remanded in custody to pay their bail, family members or friends are often called upon to do it. Someone can post bail on your behalf at courthouses or remand centres.
What if the court denies me bail?
If the court refuses to grant bail you will be held in custody until the trial or until a further order of the court. An order denying bail can be reviewed in the Court of Queen's Bench but that can take significant time. For these reasons, it is important to have defence counsel assisting you at the bail hearing.
Why do I need to hire a lawyer for a bail hearing?
If you do not have proper legal representation at a hearing, you may be required to post an excessive amount in bail. Drawing on my experience, I can negotiate with the Crown to try to get you released on your own recognizance, meaning there is no up-front payment for release. If that is not possible, I can work to ensure the bail and its conditions are reasonable. Contact me for a free consultation.