What Happens Between Your DUI Arrest and Court Trial
You’ve been arrested and charged with driving while ability impaired (DWAI) and now have to appear in court. If you do not have a prior criminal record and are not already facing other criminal charges which are still outstanding, you will likely be released by the police and given a Promise to Appear Notice. This document is your release paper and will include some important information, including the first court date.
The Promise to Appear means that you must return once to the police station to have your fingerprints and photographs taken and then attend court at a later date. If you fail to appear for fingerprinting, etc. or for court, you will be charged with further criminal charges of Failing to Appear, contrary to s. 145(5) of the Criminal Code. Having a DWAI lawyer in Toronto is your best way to get the results you want. Keep reading to find out what happens during court.
Promise to Appear Notice
The date on the Promise to Appear Notice is not the trial date but, rather the date that you must attend for your first court appearance. The Notice will provide the courthouse address, courtroom number and time for your first appearance. If you do not show up, the court may issue a bench warrant for your arrest and when the police find you, you will likely be charged with Failing to Appear for Court, contrary to s. 145(5) of the Criminal Code.
While you are responsible for attending as per the Promise to Appear Notice, the police sometimes make mistakes on it. For instance, the police may set your court date on a weekend or statutory holiday when the courthouse is closed. If this is the case, the law requires you to attend court on the next business day that the courthouse is open but you should immediately contact a criminal lawyer to discuss how best to approach matters beforehand.
The first court date indicated on the Promise to Appear Notice is called the “First Appearance Date.” This is not your trial date. This is the date that the Crown prosecutor will provide you with initial disclosure and asked whether you have retained, i.e. hired, a lawyer and, if so, what your lawyer’s instructions are. If you have not yet retained a lawyer, you must appear in court personally and will likely have to wait several hours until the prosecutor calls your name to address your case. You will then have to choose a new date to come back to court to confirm whether you are going to hire a lawyer or try to defend yourself.
The initial disclosure package provided by the Crown prosecutor contains evidence which the Crown is going to rely upon to prosecute you. This usually includes a summary of the charges, the notes of all the police officers involved in your case, any witness statements that the police have obtained, any statements made by you, and any video or audiotaped evidence that they have obtained. As an accused person, you are entitled to receive “full disclosure” from the Crown, meaning everything in the possession of the Crown and/or the investigating police service which may be relevant to your care, including any evidence which may help you to defend yourself. Having a DWAI lawyer in Toronto is your best way to get “full disclosure”.
Audio and Video Evidence
All “911 calls” are audio recorded by police. As well, many police cruisers are now equipped with in-car camera recording systems and almost every police station in Ontario is equipped with video recording systems in every area that an accused person is taken including the booking desk area, cells, washrooms, and breath room where your breath samples will be taken (but not the phone booth where you will be given an opportunity to speak with a lawyer in private).
Audio and video disclosure refers to all audio and videotaped evidence that may exist, including 911 calls, in-car camera systems, police station videos, and breath room videos. This evidence is important to document what did and did not happen, especially as it relates to how you behaved while in police custody and how you performed the breath tests. It is important that this evidence be disclosed to you before your trial date as it can be used to contradict the police officers who will be called to testify against you. For example, if the officer’s notes state that you were slurring your speech, swaying from side to side and not able to answer basic questions, the audio and video disclosure may show you to be coherent, steady on your feet and answering questions intelligibly.
Crown Pre-Trial Meetings
After reviewing the Crown disclosure, your case will be adjourned to a later court date. Prior to your next court date, a Crown Pre-Trial meeting usually takes place which essentially is a meeting between the Crown Attorney and your lawyer to discuss the case. The first item of business is to confirm that your disclosure is complete. It typically consists of going over the officers’ notes, witness statements, and audio or video evidence that was provided. An experienced DUI lawyer will know whether there is more disclosure that can be requested which the Crown Attorney must provide if asked. It is during the Crown Pre-Trial that negotiations regarding a resolution for your case are discussed.
A judicial pre-trial is a meeting between your criminal defense lawyer, the Crown attorney and a judge (and sometimes the police officer in charge of your case). This meeting takes place if the charge cannot be resolved at the Crown Pre-Trial. This is another opportunity for your criminal defense lawyer to present the judge with reason that the crown’s case against you is weak. If the Crown prosecutor acknowledges that there are weaknesses in the case, it is possible that a resolution to a lesser offense may take a place. If no resolution can be found during the judicial pre-trial, then your case will go to trial which is usually set a few months after the judicial pre-trial. The judge who conducted the judicial pre-trial cannot be your trial judge unless both you and the Crown Attorney consent to such.