Nicholas Charitsis is a Toronto lawyer specializing in criminal law for the Toronto and area courts. Consultations conducted at no charge by calling 416-878-2275 or contacting our office.
You Have Been Charged Now What Happens …
The Promise to Appear
After being arrested and charged with any drinking and driving charge like impaired driving or drive over 80 mgs it is likely that you will have been released from the police station and given a “Promise to Appear Notice”.
The promise to appear document is your release paper and it has some important information on it including the first court date.
The police released you from custody because you agreed in the promise to appear that you would do two things.
- You agreed that you would appear and have your fingerprints and photograph taken.
- You must appear for fingerprints – Appearing for your fingerprints is mandatory.
- If you do not appear the police can issue a warrant for your arrest, and you can be charged with a the criminal offence for Failing to Attend for Fingerprints.
If you do not appear this will make your problems even worse since there would be more charges against you in court and the judge might conclude that you are not responsible and form a negative impression about you.
The court date on the Promise to Appear notice is not the trial date. The first court date is a date to enter a plea to the charges and the crown attorney should provide a copy of the disclosure including the police officers notes.
Appearing in court
You agreed that you would appear in court.
- This date is clearly marked in paragraph numbered 1 near the top of the Promise to Appear form.
- The form indicates the date, time, courtroom number and the court address that you must attend for your first court appearance.
- This is mandatory court appearance, you must appear for your first court appearance, or have a lawyer appear for you.
If you do not appear on this date, the Justice of the Peace at the court will issue a bench warrant for your arrest. The police will be notified of the failure to appear and arrest you.
If you do not appear the police will add a charge of “Fail to Appear for Court” to your case, which is a serious charge that can include jail as a penalty.
Again this will make your problems even worse since there would be more charges against your in court and the judge might conclude that you are not responsible thereby forming a negative impression about you and your case right from the start.
Sometimes the police make mistakes on the promise to appear document such as giving you a court date that is a statutory holiday or on a weekend when the courts are closed. There are other mistakes that a police officer can make on the Promise to Appear document. It is for this reason that you should contact me as soon as possible after you’ve been charged with Impaired Driving or any drinking and driving case.
I have been able to resolve cases for my clients right at the beginning because of incomplete information or mistakes on the promise to appear. The case doesn’t proceed any further because the charge never gets to court.
First Court Date – First Appearance
The first court date is commonly called a “First Appearance Date” or the “Set Date”.
The first Appearance is not trial date for your charge, nor is it a date where you will be asked to plead guilty or not guilty. It is a “set date” to appear and collect initial disclosure in your case.
You are expected to attend court with all the other people that have been charged with a variety of other criminal offences including robbery, sexual assault, possession of child pornography etc.
If you appear by yourself you can expect to be in court for several hours until your name is called by the prosecutor to address your matter. The prosecutor will provide you with the disclosure for your case and then you will be asked to choose a new date to come back to enter a plea to your charge.
If you call and meet with me prior to your first appearance I can arrange to prepare a document for you to sign so that you do not have to attend court on your first appearance.
It is important for your defense to the charge that you have a lawyer retained and ready to appear for you on the first appearance. It shows that you are serious about defending the charges, and your file will be noted as having a lawyer present from day one. This could be of great value for you if the case gets delayed when set down for trial. You could be more successful in arguing that your rights to have a speedy trial, in regards to an 11B Application to show that your rights may have been violated if there is a record that you hired a lawyer right at the beginning.
If you don’t have a lawyer right at the beginning, the Crown Attorney could argue when responding to a delay argument that you, the defendant were dragging your heels and that you were part of the cause of the delay, because you did not retain a lawyer to fight the charges until late in the process.
Court Disclosure and the Police Officers Notes
The initial disclosure package will contain a police summary of the charges against you, hand written police notes from the date you were arrested, a summary of interview statements provided by any witnesses including any statement you gave to the police yourself. The disclosure will form the basis of the case against you. The disclosure should contain all the evidence that the crown attorney is going to use to convict your of the charge. The crown attorney will use this evidence to convince a judge that you are guilty of the charges beyond a reasonable doubt.
After your first court date, you can expect the next court date to be in 3 to 4 weeks. On the next court date, there will usually be more police disclosure provided. Most likely, the crown attorney will have all of the police notes and statements made by civilian witnesses who spoke to the police on the date you were charged. Your case will then be adjourned for another 3 to 4 weeks for more disclosure. The disclosure you will receive on that date will likely consist of any video evidence the crown may rely on.
The Video Tape Evidence
Video evidence will be the video taped recordings of you at the police station being booked by the officers. The video will also show the breath tests that you provided at the station. It is important that you make an effort to get these videos, especially if the police are alleging that you were impaired.
The videos might show a different picture of you coherent, steady on your feat, orderly and aware of what’s going on around you. Many times the video can help your case. This might assist to counter act the police notes that say that you were impaired (E.g. unsteady on your feet, slurred speech, swaying from side to side, not being aware of your surroundings etc.)
In many cases I have been able to use the video disclosure to my clients advantage in court to demonstrate that the police officer notes regarding my clients conduct might be exaggerated. This could be enough to create reasonable doubt and in some circumstances and a judge could find you not guilty.
Other video taped evidence might include in car cameras in the police car that captures your vehicle on the roadway and video of you inside the police cruiser when you were arrested. The crown attorney may also disclose the 911 call that was made to the police by a civilian to report a drunk driver on the road.
Crown Pre-Trial Meetings
After receiving the video disclosure your case will be postponed for another court date, again 3 to 4 weeks from the last date. It is at that time after receiving most of the standard disclosure for your case that a Crown Pre-Trial meeting can be conducted. The Crown Pre-Trial is a meeting between your lawyer and the crown attorney to discuss your case.
The first item of business at the Crown Pre-Trial is to confirm whether or not your disclosure is complete. For the most part it will appear to be complete as far as officer notes are concerned and video disclosure being provided. However as an experienced lawyer specializing in drinking and driving offences will know that there is more disclosure that can be asked for and the crown must provide it if asked.
This additional disclosure has to do specifically with the technical components of the case. It is at the Crown Pre-Trial that negotiations and discussions can occur regarding possible resolution of your case, example reducing the criminal charge to a traffic ticket like careless driving with no criminal conviction or driver licence suspension.
I have been very successful for many of the over 2,500 drinking and driving cases that I have conducted to resolve their case at the Crown Pre-Trial stage of proceedings, reduced hundreds of criminal impaired driving and drinking and driving charges down to a traffic ticket.
If your charge cannot be resolved at the Crown Pre-Trial meeting then the case will be adjourned for another 3 to 4weeks so that a Judicial Pretrial (JPT) be conducted. A Judicial Pretrial is a meeting between the lawyer, the crown attorney, judge and often the police officer in charge of your case. This is usually conducted in the Judges chambers at the courthouse where your case is being heard.
The Judicial Pretrial is another opportunity to have resolution discussion and for your lawyer to present the judge with some relevant case law to show where the crowns case against you maybe weak.
Sometimes, if the crown prosecutor acknowledges that there are weaknesses in the case at the Judicial Pretrial, a resolution to a lesser offence might be offered.
If no resolution is offered, it is after the judicial pretrial that an estimate length of time for trial is made and your case will then be set for a trial. The trial date is usually set for a date 6-8months after the judicial pretrial.
About Your Drivers Licence Suspension
Your driver’s license will remain suspended for 90 days from the date you were charged under a “Administrative Drivers License Suspension” (ADLS). The police should have given you a notice on the date you were charged.
Once the 90 days have past and your have decided to fight your charge you can get your drivers licence back.
To get your drivers licence back you just have to go to any office of the Ministry of Transportation office, pay 150 dollars and they will reinstate your right to drive.
You can drive until your trial date. It usually takes between 8-12 months from the date you were charged to have a trial set.