What happens during a bail hearing?


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Bail hearings before a justice of the peace or provincial court judge typically last for 25 minutes or less. Keep in mind that it is not a trial and there will be no determination of guilt or innocence. Instead, the only thing that will be decided is if you should be released into the community and the conditions of bail that are required. The hearing must be held within 24 hours of an arrest, or as soon as possible if a justice is not immediately available.

Who speaks at a bail hearing?

The crown prosecutor will summarize the nature of the offence, the evidence against you and if there are other factors that must be considered in deciding if you should be held in custody. It is wise to have an experienced lawyer at your side at this stage, to articulate to the court the reasons why you should be given bail and to ensure that bail is reasonable. At the end of the hearing, a court date will be set as well as the conditions that you must follow while awaiting trial.

What does reverse onus mean at this stage?

The principle of not being denied reasonable bail without just cause is guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. That means the crown bears the onus of proof, or the burden of proving there are reasons why you should be held in custody prior to trial. With certain serious charges, such as murder and certain firearm offences, the onus of proof is reversed and the defence lawyer has the burden to show why the accused should be released.

When can bail be refused?

The crown has to “show cause” as to why you should be kept in custody. Reasons that your detention is necessary could be:

  • to ensure your attendance at trial;
  • because you are a risk to the safety of the public as you are likely to reoffend; or
  • the confidence of the public in the administration of justice would be shaken by your release.

What conditions may the court impose?

Bail conditions imposed by the court can be overly restrictive. Depending on your alleged crime, they could include that you:

  • do not contact certain people;
  • not be within a specific distance of a specific place, person or persons;
  • attend counselling or treatment; and
  • live at a specified address and stay home during specific hours, usually overnight.

It is important that you understand the extent of your bail conditions. If you violate them, you can be charged with failing to comply. That will make it more difficult to apply for bail in the future and you may lose any money paid to secure your release.

How is the amount of bail determined?

The amount of bail you or someone else will be required to pay is determined by the seriousness of your charges. Another major factor is if you have a criminal record. Since that record will increase the severity of your sentence upon conviction it also bumps up your bail costs.

How can I keep bail costs down?

I can help you develop a release plan that will show the court that you are going to act responsibly if granted bail. The plan will include information such as:

  • where you will live;
  • who will be supervising you;
  • if you are going to work or do any schooling; and
  • your plans to address any drug use or alcohol issues that may have been a factor in your arrest.

Are there different forms of release?

There are four common types of releases when it comes to being granted bail. They are:
If your alleged offence was minor in nature and you do not have a criminal record, you could be released with no financial obligation attached to the bail.

You could be required to pay a set amount if you disobey a condition of your bail or fail to appear at trial.

The court could demand that you post a certain amount in bail before you are released, which will not be returned if you disobey a condition or fail to appear in court.

The court could demand that someone be named as a surety. That person is authorized by the court to supervise you while on release in the community and ensure that you comply with your bail conditions.

Who can be named as a surety in Alberta?

A surety is typically a friend or relative who is of good character. They have to be in regular contact with you, since the court is entrusting them to supervise you while you are on bail. In Alberta, sureties must be over the age of 18 and have money in equity or savings that can be pledged to the court as a security. If you violate your bail conditions, the surety may lose some or all of that money. Your surety cannot be involved in the crime you are accused of committing and, in most cases, cannot have a criminal record, though the court may overlook a minor offence or one that is in the distant past.

Why you need me at your bail hearing!

As a seasoned defence lawyer, I understand how important bail hearings are in the criminal justice system. The terms of your release can have a significant impact on your employment and family life so I will work to ensure that your bail conditions are not onerous. Contact me for a free consultation.