Ontario Courts Reopening for Criminal Trials

December 23, 2020

Ontario criminal trials are back in session.

The Ontario Court of Justice resumed criminal case management matters as of November 30th. Due to COVID-19, cases were adjourned from March 16th to August 7th, and then again from August 24th to November 27th. All accused persons must attend any scheduled appearances dated on or after November 30th.

Attendance Options

Although vaccine treatments have begun, pandemic risks continue. As such, the majority of courts do not want the defendants to appear in person. Most courts are not currently allowing in-person attendance, so if you do wish to make a live appearance you must confirm in advance that this is allowed at your location.

Although you may not attend in-person you do have to attend, or at least have representation, at all mandated court dates. Your defence counsel can appear on your behalf unless your attendance is specifically necessary. Your defence lawyer can help you understand which appearances you must make.

When you must make an appearance you are expected to do so remotely. Remote court attendance is available digitally, through online video, or over the telephone. The services for video and phone are free of charge. 

If you do not have access to a personal phone or a webcam you can use a payphone to call in. Each court location has a toll-free 1-855 number that allows you to dial into the Zoom call for your court date. Other services may also be available and can be found by contacting your courthouse.

Has My Appearance Date Changed?

Any court appearance scheduled on, or after, November 30th has not been adjourned. You must attend the original date. The adjournment period for earlier court appearances depends on the original date.

And case adjourned prior to November 19th has been rescheduled for 5 to 10 weeks. It is your responsibility to be aware of the new date and there are possible repercussions for missing any mandated criminal case management appearances. 

Any appearances between November 19th to 27th has been adjourned for 7 weeks. If you are unsure of the date you can consult the resources available through your courthouse. As well, your criminal lawyer can help you understand the process and dates that you must attend.

What Happens if I Don’t Attend?

Failure to attend mandatory appearances for criminal charges will likely result in repercussions. This is true whether you miss the date intentionally or accidentally. Repeated missed dates can lead to more serious consequences.

A likely result of failing to attend a virtual court appearance is a bench summons. These are typically given for a failure to appear, issuing a formal command for police to locate and arrest you. If arrested on a bench summons, you may be held in custody until your hearing.

The court may also issue a bench warrant to hold. In this case, you may be able to avoid being brought into custody so long as you attend your next court appearance.

This may escalate to an arrest warrant if the Justice has grounds to believe that you will not come to court without the warrant. This warrant may also be issued to secure evidence, prevent the continuation of offences, or to prevent the commission of new offences. 

An arrest warrant means that if the police do find you, you will be taken into custody until your court date. 

Hire a Criminal Defence Lawyer for Virtual Trials

Your criminal defence lawyer is able to represent you at most virtual appearances. Rely on their expertise and experience to navigate the Justice system to avoid complications in these changing times. Allowing your lawyer to represent you ensures the attendance of all dates and a clear understanding of your Justice process.

William Jaksa is a Toronto criminal lawyer with over a decade of experience. He will help you understand your charges, your options, and the potential outcomes. Book your consultation today.

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