The criminal justice system can already be overwhelming and confusing but earlier this year COVID-19, the Coronavirus, suspended the normal operations of the criminal court system in Ontario. With much of the province slowly reopening again, you might be wondering how this will work for criminal courts in Ontario and when will they reopen. What The Law is here to help clarify this for you based on your current situation.
If you have been newly charged during these pandemic times, it can be a little confusing as to what your next steps are. If you have been charged but not detained, you will be given a Promise to Appear, which is a piece of paper indicating your charges and your upcoming first court date. If you have been charged and were not released at the station, you will still have a right to a bail hearing before a judge. This fundamental right has not been taken away from you. Bail hearings are still occurring by way of audio communication where you, the judge, the crown attorney, your potential surety and your lawyer, if you hired one, will all be on the phone. Bail hearings are now being ran like a huge audio conference with all the appropriate parties there.
Right now, the potential re-opening date for Ontario Court of Justice is Monday July 6, 2020. If your first court appearance was anywhere from March 16, 2020 to Friday July 3, 2020, your court appearance has been automatically adjourned to a future date. This means, that without requiring your physical attendance in court, your court appearance has been automatically moved to a future court date. However, your appearance is mandatory at the next court appearance (if not adjourned again by the court). Please check the Ontario Courts website to check your adjournment date.
As previously mentioned, the Ontario Court of Justice has been closed to help slow the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus. If you have a matter that is currently ongoing in court, if your next court date has fallen between March 16, 2020 and Friday July 3, 2020 your court appearance has been automatically adjourned. Trials and preliminary inquiries have also been suspended subject to a judge ordering otherwise. This suspension applies to in-custody and out of custody individuals. Judicial Pre-trials, or “JPTs”, will continue to be available by way of telephone.
With daily court operations being suspended, here at WTL we realize the difficulties that self-represented individuals are facing. You have been charged, you have your first court appearance several months in the future and you are essentially left waiting, with little to no information as to what to do.
We understand the delicate situation some individuals are in especially when it comes to domestic violence charges, like assault or mischief, where you are put on a condition that prohibits you from going back to your home. This, on top of COVID-19, is constantly delaying court appearances, making it more difficult for you to change your conditions and/or resolving your actual case. Being self-represented means, you are at the mercy of a system that can be very confusing and complicated. This is why you want an Ontario law firm to help address your immediate needs during this time, whatever they may be. For example, varying your bail so you can go home. Do not feel like you have to navigate the court system on your own. Call us today at 647-295-6499 for your free consultation with a criminal lawyer.
Assistance may be available to self-represented individuals through the court’s Duty Counsel as well as Pro Bono Ontario. Please call your local courthouse for more information for what resources may or may not be available for self-represented individuals. You can visit the Ministry of Attorney General website for all of the local courthouses and phone numbers.
Pro Bono Ontario also offers a free legal advice hotline as well if you require additional support.
At What The Law we understand that the pandemic has effected several people’s jobs and household income. That is why we pride ourselves in offering affordable payment plans for our clients. We understand that especially during these times not everyone is in a position to come up with a large retainer to hire a criminal lawyer. At WTL, we will work with your financial situation to make sure you can hire a criminal lawyer and get the justice you deserve. We also accept legal aid certificates. Please visit the Legal Aid website to see the Legal Aid Ontario COVID-19 updates.
The biggest scare right now is how criminal courts are going to be brought back while being safe for the public. There are ideas being thrown around right now about courts operating in a pure virtual setting but there are obvious limitations to that.
Right now, it is all about ensuring that our criminal justice system survives this pandemic in two ways:
This is a time of unknown, but you do not have to handle it alone. Call WTL today 647-295-6499 for your Free Consultation and speak to an experienced criminal lawyer today. Let us take care of you during this time.