What is a trial? 

Susan Karpa Criminal Lawyer in CalgaryIf you have been charged or are being investigated, hiring a Calgary criminal defence lawyer is important. I can explain the strategy for fighting these charges, the repercussions of a guilty plea, the nature of a peace bond if applicable, and other related aspects of your charges. Contact us now at 587-888-7149 for a free consultation.

What is a trial?

When someone is charged with a criminal offence and they plead “not guilty”, then a trial will take place. At the trial, the judge or jury (where applicable) will decide whether the prosecutor (federal or provincial) has proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused committed the offence that they have been charged with. 

Under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Section 11(f), and individual has a right to decide whether they want a trial by jury or judge alone. This right is automatically provided when the office for which a person has been charged hold a maximum prison sentence of five years, or a more severe punishment.

In Canada, there are three types of criminal offence categories. The first is indictable, second is summary, and third is hybrid. The most serious of these offences is an indictable offence, and a hybrid offence is one in which discretion is given to the prosecutor to prosecute an individual under either an indictable or summary offence.

When a person is charged with a less serious indictable offence or a summary conviction, they are not given the option of choosing between a judge alone or jury trial. Even in a jury trial, the trial judge will give the jury the law that applies to the charge, and the jury will all need to decide that the person who is accused is guilty of the crime that they have been charged with. An important point to remember is that while the jury may find a person guilty, they can only provide recommendations on sentencing that the judge does not have to accept. 

Some criminal matters that are indictable allow an accused person to have a preliminary inquiry which is different than a trial. If an accused person is entitled to have a preliminary inquiry and elects to have one (see my separate FAQ about elections), then it will occur prior to a trial date being set. The judge at a preliminary inquiry must determine if the prosecutor has shown enough evidence to move the matter on to a trial. 

During the duration of the trial, the prosecutor and the defence lawyer will call witnesses and present evidence to support their account of what occurred. Based on the legal requirements, the prosecutor will go first in the trial, and then the defence lawyer will follow. Both the prosecutor and defence will use evidence as well as witness testimony in court to support their case. Any witness that is brought to the trial will be directly questioned by the side that their story supports and will be cross-examined by the opposing party. 

A person who is the accused has the right to not provide statements and remain silent during the trial. There is no obligation to provide evidence at the trial, but if the accused does provide evidence, the prosecutor can cross-examine the accused. At that point, the accused must answer all questions related to that evidence. 

When all the witnesses have been called, both the defence lawyer and the prosecutor will present their closing arguments. It is the responsibility of the prosecutor to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused both mentally (when applicable) and physically committed the crime. If the prosecutor fails to prove the guilt of the accused, they will be acquitted or found not guilty.