FAQ on Crown Pre-Trials (CPT) & Judicial Pre-Trials (JPT)
WHAT IS A CROWN PRE-TRIAL?
A ‘Crown Pre-Trial’ (CPT) is one of several stages in a criminal case, where the crown attorney and criminal lawyer of an accused person will meet to discuss a variety of topics related to the case. Criminal defence lawyers and Crown Attorneys will generally conduct CPTs behind closed doors, off the court record and in the absence of the accused. Before any trial dates are scheduled, both parties come together in an attempt to resolve the matter without proceeding to trial. Also referred to a resolution meeting, resolution discussions, pretrial conference, etc.
WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF CROWN PRE-TRIALS?
CPTs are essential to both criminal lawyers and crown attorneys as it gives both parties an opportunity to have full & frank discussions that would likely not take place in the courtroom. For example, a lawyer could determine the crown’s position if his/her client were to accept responsibility for their actions & pay restitution for damages suffered by the complainant; in court (and on the record) lawyers will refrain from any indication/admissions of their clients’ guilt (until they are instructed to do so by their clients of course). CPTs also serves as an opportunity to screen out clear-cut cases that have no place before the courts. Lawyers may also address any outstanding issues at an early stage by conducting CPTs, such as: issues with disclosure, potential defences, trial issues, and of course, negotiating resolution positions, seek bail variations, etc.
CAN YOU CONDUCT YOUR OWN CROWN PRE-TRIAL?
Technically yes, but its strongly not recommended any accused person conduct their own CPT. If you cannot afford a private counsel and do not qualify for legal aid, at the very least, you should seek the assistance of a duty counsel lawyer from Legal Aid before you consider self-representation. Important issues are discussed and even more important decisions are expected to be made during pre-trial discussions that may result in disastrous results or missed opportunities without the assistance of a lawyer.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO SCHEDULE A CROWN PRE-TRIAL?
As one of the first steps of and absolutely necessary steps in every single criminal case, it should be of no surprise that it may take anywhere from to 4-8 weeks to schedule a CPT. The length of time really depends on how busy the courts are, the resources of the Crown’s office, which of course vary at different courthouses and jurisdictions. While scheduling pre-trials in advance may require a period of wait, the office of the crow attorney in almost every jurisdiction make their best efforts to staff a crown attorney on duty (referred to as the duty crown) throughout court hours who is solely responsible for conducting pre-trials with lawyers in-person.
WHAT IS A JUDCIAL PRE-TRIAL?
A ‘Judicial Pre-Trial’ (JPT) is a meeting between a criminal defence lawyer, a crown attorney and a pre-trial judge, where the litigating parties discuss their existing or recently-developed pre-trial and/or trial issues with the assistance/resources of a judge who can provide invaluable judicial input on the case. JPTs are only scheduled after the defence and crown have had at least one crown pre-trial with the hope that the two parties can resolve the matter without the involvement of a judge or at least narrow the issues that will require the assistance of a learned judge who can provide commentary on Charter issues, defences, likelihood of success, appropriate sentences specific to the facts of the case before the parties.
WHERE DOES THE JUDICIAL PRE-TRIAL TAKE PLACE?
Various jurisdictions and courthouses may have their own practices/procedures in terms of how judicial pre-trials are conducted. However, JPTs are generally conducted in the chambers (offices) of the judges, or alternatively in a closed courtroom where the body of the court is asked to leave the courtroom during the pre-trial. These proceedings are held behind closed-doors without the presence of a court reporter in order to encourage full and frank discussions off-the-record.
WHAT TYPE OF CASES REQUIRE A JUDICIAL PRE-TRIAL?
Best practice guidelines indicate that judicial pre-trials are meant to ensure fair and efficient resolution of criminal cases and should be scheduled in any case that is estimated to be more than 1 day or in any case where the accused intends to be self-represented or unrepresented by a licensed practitioner. Furthermore, a judicial pre-trial should be scheduled in any case that requires judicial input on resolution positions (withdrawals/guilt pleas), accurate time estimates for trials, and/or narrowing issues related to procedure or evidence.
CAN ADMISSIONS OF GUILT AT A JPT BE USED AS EVIDENCE AT TRIAL?
No, pre-trial discussions are considered to be inadmissible at trial,unlessthe parties agree to make admissions/concessions. For the most part, pre-trial discussions are held outside the courtroom and off the court record in the absence of the accused, so that the parties feel free to openly discuss the matter & promote a more efficient process. Different courthouses may have different rules and/or procedures in terms of how they conduct JPTs. However, all parties are expected to have authority to make decisions related to disclosure, admissions, applications, trial issues etc.
CAN THE JUDICIAL PRE-TRIAL JUDGE ALSO ACT AS THE TRIAL JUDGE?
Absolutely not–the judicial pre-trial judge will not be the trial judge, if the matter is set down for trial; however, if the accused person if satisfied with the resolution position the judicial pre-trial judge has indicated during pre-trial discussions, then the judicial pre-trial judge can also be the sentencing judge, if the accused person wishes to do so.
CAN YOU CONDUCT YOUR OWN JUDICIAL PRE-TRIAL?
The answer is yes, a self-represented accused may conduct their own JPT; however, this is STRONGLY discouraged–JPTs can take up to 1-3 months from the date it is scheduled (depending on the availability of the court & crown). Do NOT lose or waste this opportunity by doing it yourself, if you are not a licensed criminal lawyer. Criminal lawyers are skilled professional legal practitioners and know how to effectively conduct such pre-trials in order to take advantage of such resources & ultimately obtain the best possible outcome for clients.
Note to readers: This page is solely for informational purposes and should not be considered legal advice. In order to ensure the protection of your rights and interests, please consult a criminal defence lawyer prior to acting or relying upon any information.
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If you or someone you care about has been charged with a criminal offence, please contact a Toronto criminal lawyer regarding your rights. Call Farjoud Law at (647) 606-6776 to speak with a criminal lawyer. Available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.