Your Ontario Preliminary Hearing in Criminal Court

OTTAWA CRIMINAL DEFENCE LAWYER – A preliminary hearing is a court session that occurs in many criminal cases. This hearing takes place after the accused has gone through Remand Court, and provides the first opportunity for Crown prosecutors to present evidence before a judge.

The whole point of a preliminary hearing is to review the evidence and determine whether or not there is enough evidence to continue prosecuting the accused for his or her criminal charges. The process of an actual preliminary hearing goes like this:

  1. The Crown calls forth witnesses and tenders evidence, in an effort to prove that there is indeed a sufficient amount of it.
  2. The criminal defence lawyer for the accused will try to argue that the charges should be dismissed, citing a lack of sufficient evidence.
  3. The defence lawyer may also cross-examine witnesses for further evidence to help build the defence case.
  4. A court reporter takes down a transcript of the entire hearing, which can be referred to at later trial dates – and can be a very helpful tool for the defence.

Those transcripts are highly important, and after your preliminary hearing you should obtain copies of the transcripts as soon as possible. Review and discuss the transcripts privately with your lawyer, before proceeding to the next stage of your criminal case.

The judge’s role at a preliminary hearing is different from the role he or she would play at a trial. At this stage, the judge cannot make any rulings based on Charter rights or violations of those rights. There are a number of things that the judge can do at this stage, and often will:

  • Order a publication ban on the evidence presented. (Either side may request that the judge do so.)
  • Grant adjournments.
  • Make rulings on evidence admissibility, and on the extent of cross-examination.

Your preliminary hearing can end in one of two ways: either you are discharged (and your charges dropped) due to a lack of admissible evidence, or you are forced to stand trial in the Superior Court of Justice.

Having your charges dropped at the preliminary hearing is not an impossible goal – far from it. In fact, I personally have been successful in having several clients’ cases dismissed at this early stage of the process.

However, it is much more difficult and frustrating to pursue that goal if you are representing yourself. You need to hire a lawyer, and meet with him or her before the hearing so that you can discuss anticipated witnesses and evidence.

Are you facing criminal charges in Ontario and trying to prepare for a preliminary hearing? Not sure whether such a hearing is necessary for your case? A top criminal defence lawyer should be the first call you make. For more information, contact the Ottawa criminal defence lawyers at Auger Hollingsworth by email [email protected] or by phone at (613) 233-4529.

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