Glossary of Criminal Law Terms
Absolute Discharge – a conviction is not entered against the accused and any information or record relating to that offence cannot be disclosed after one year from the date of the discharge order.
Acquittal – a finding of “not guilty” in a criminal case after a trial has been conducted before a trier of fact (judge or jury)
Adjournment – postponement of a criminal case to a later date (for various purpose e.g. retaining counsel, obtaining and reviewing disclosure, pre-trials, setting a trial date)
Amicus Curiae – Latin for “friend of the court.” Typically a lawyer who assists the court during the course of particular court proceedings, such as a trial, to represent a position or interest, usually at the court’s request (e.g. self-represented accused would be appointed an amicus curiae for cross-examining the complainant of an alleged sexual assault)
Appeal – criminal proceeding initiated by an individual convicted of a criminal offence or the Crown Attorny, who requests a higher-level court to review the decision of the lower-level court, specifically with respect to the actual conviction and/or the sentence imposed. Summary conviction offences are appealed to the Superior Court of Justice. Indictable offences are appealed to the Court of Appeal (of that province).
Arraignment – one of the initial steps taken in a criminal proceeding to confirm the identity of the accused, formally read the charges, and ask how the accused pleads (done before the accused pleads guilty or at the beginning of his/her trial when the accused plead not guilty)
Bail hearing – proceeding that takens place when a person is not released by an arresting officer for a criminal offence. As such, the person must be taken before a Justice of the Peace (JP) or a judge to determine whether the person should remain in custody pending trial or released on bail.
Bench Warrant – an order issued by a judge to a police officer for the arrest of a person who has failed to appear, or remain in attendance, at a hearing or trial. Bench warrants are a form of arrest warrants.
Charge – a formal accusation of a criminal offence
Concurrent Sentence – two or more terms of imprisonment served simultaneously (e.g. a sentence of 2 months for theft & 2 months for assault served consecutively would result in a total of a 2 month jail sentence since the time of both convictions start at the same time)
Conditional Discharge – a conviction is not entered against the accused if certain conditions that are imposed are met. Any information or record relating to the offence cannot be disclosed after three years from the date of the discharge order, as long as all the conditions are met.
Conditional Sentence – where a sentence of imprisonment is less than two years, the judge may order that the sentence be served in the community subject to conditions
Consecutive Sentence – two or more terms of imprisonment served one after the other (e.g. a sentence of 2 months for theft & 2 months for assault served consecutively would result in a total of a 4 month jail sentence)
Conviction – the act of finding someone guilty of a criminal charge by way of pleading guilty or being found guilty by a trier of fact (judge or jury)
Corbett Application – application to exclude the accused’s criminal record at trial (to avoid unnecessary prejudice)
Cross Examination – examination of a witness by an opposing party to develop or test the truth of evidence given by the witness during direct examination
Crown Pre-trial – conference/meeting conducted between defence counsel and Crown Attorney, which are typically held in the absence of the accused, out-of-court, either in-person or via telephone, to encourage full and frank discussions between the parties regarding resolution and/or trial issues before a matter is set down for trial
Dawson Application – application to the preliminary inquiry judge for permission to cross-examine the affiant(author) of an information to obtain (ITO) a search warrat (document drafted by police to establish the reasonable grounds they have to potentially obtain a warrant from a judge)
Direct Examination – questioning of a witness in a trial or other proceedings, conducted by the party who called the witness to testify.
Discharge – a release from obligation when a legal duty has ended. In the criminal context, this is also used as an alternative sentencing option for an accused who has been found guilty. The result of a discharge is that the offender has no criminal record of a finding of guilt.
Disclosure – a term used to describe the evidence the Crown Attorney (prosecutor) is relying on to prove the criminal charges against you. Disclosure typically consists of a record of arrest, police officer notes,charge screening form, synopsis of the allegations, witness statements, photos or videos, and more.
Discretionary Bench Warrant – in circumstances where a person does not appear in court, the court may extend a courtesy by issuing a bench warrant “with discretion”. The matter is adjourned to a future date and, if the person appears at that time, the warrant is cancelled
First Appearance – first court date in a criminal proceeding which commonly takes place at the Ontario Court of Justice (will be indicated on an accused person’s notice of appearance, summons, recognizance of bail, release papers, etc)
Garofoli Application – application made to the trial judge by the defence to review wiretap authorizations
Gladue Hearing – hearing that takes place at the sentencing phase in which circumstances relating to the accused’s Aboriginal heritage are considered. (some courthouses have dedicated Gladue courts)
Gardiner Hearing – hearing that occurs during the sentencing phase in which the Crown calls evidence and seeks to prove disputed aggravating facts beyond a reasonable doubt
Hybrid Offence – term applied to a criminal offence which may be tried by summary conviction procedure or by indictment at the option of the prosecutor. A hybrid offence is an indictable offence until the Crown elects to proceed by way of summary conviction. The difference is in the process followed.
Indictable Offence – more serious criminal offences that carry longer maximum sentences and higher fines; these offences are also subject to more complex court procedures, including the right to a preliminary hearing before a trial in the Superior Court of Justice.
Information – a formal document containing the offences that the accused is charged with. Informations are used in the Ontario Court of Justice
Intermittent Sentence – commonly referred to as “weekends” a sentence consisting of periods of imprisonment interrupted by periods of probation. Intermittent sentences may be given for sentences of imprisonment for 90 days or less, usually to avoid loss of employment or interruption of education or childcare.
Judicial Pre-trial – a conference/meeting conducted by the defence counsel of an accused person, the Crown Attorney and a pre-trial judge, in the judge’s chambers in the absence of the accused, where full and frank discussions are held between the parties regarding resolution and trial issues
Justice of the Peace – a judicial officer who has authority to do a variety of things in criminal matters, including, issuing warrants and hearing bail applications and provincial offence trials.
K.G.B. (or Khan or Khelawon) Application – application to admit hearsay evidence that is necessary and reliable but does not fit within a traditional exception to the rule against hearsay. KGB applications are typically used to admit a complainant’s videotaped statement to police commonly after the complainant recants his/her testimony at trial
Kienapple Rule – rule requiring the judicial staying of overlapping charges that relate to the same cause or matter, leaving a single charge for the purposes of sentencing (eg. over 80 and impaired driving)
McNeil Application – application to compel the Crown to obtain and disclose material in the possession of another government agency, generally the police.
Mills Application – application for the production of third party records relating to a sexual offence complainant (type of O’Connor application)
Oakes Test – test for determining whether an infringement of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms is “saved” under section 1.
O’Connor Application – application for the production of third-party records which are typically not in the possession of the Crown
Parole – early release of a prisoner from imprisonment, whereby the person is supervised and required to obey conditions
Peace Bond – an obligation or a promise given to a court where a person is ordered to keep the peace and be of good behaviour as well as obied by any conditions imposed by the court, for a cetain period of time (commonly 12 months)
Plea – declaration made by a person accused of a crime as to whether he or she is guilty or not guilty of the charge
Plea Bargain – negotiated agreement between a prosecutor and an accused, including his or her lawyer, to settle a criminal case that is presented to a judge for their consideration and decision
Preliminary Inquiry – procedure conducted by a provincial court to determine whether the Crown has sufficient evidence for a trial of the accused. At the conclusion of the inquiry, the accused will either be discharged or ordered to stand trial
Probation – an order authorizing a person to be in the community subject to conditions listed in the order.
Recognizance of Bail – when a person is not released by the arresting officer, the person must be taken before a judicial officer to determine whether the person should remain in custody pending trial. The term “bail” is often used to refer to the money paid as security for the person showing up the next time he or she is required to appear in court.
Remand – to adjourn a court appearance to a future date, which is most often used in criminal cases when the accused is in custody
Restitutionn Order – an order requiring a convicted person to restore property to its rightful owner, compensate for a loss, or repair damage caused
Rowbotham Application – application to compel the state to fund defence counsel for an accused person who cannot afford a lawyer and has been denied legal aid
Seaboyer Application – application to admit evidence of a complainant’s prior sexual conduct at trial
Stinchcombe Application – application to compel the Crown to disclose first-party material in its possession
Summary Conviction Offence – criminal offences that carry lower maximum penalties and are subject to less complex court procedures which take place in the Ontario Court of Justice.
Suspended Sentence – a sentencing option that allows the release of a person who has been found guilty and convicted of a criminal offence. The sentence is delayed by the judge to allow the accused person to comply with certain conditions as part of a probation order, for a specific period of time (no longer than 3 years). If the accused does not breach any conditions or commit any further offences, the judge will usually dismiss the sentence.
Special Bail Hearing – a bail hearing that requires more time than an average bail hearing due to a greater amount of evidence that is intended to be called by either the defence or the crown attorney. It is not uncommon for the defence to call multiple parties who will be presented as potential sureties as well as the crown to call police officers to give evidence in relation to the offenc(s). This type of proceeding is most commonly required for more serious criminal offences, such as gun charges, sexual assault charges, criminal organization/conspiracy cases, Gun and Gang major project investigations, etc.
Testimony – evidence given by a witness under oath or solem affirmation in a court proceeding
Viva Voce Evidence – evidence that is given orally, as oppose to written
W.D. Analysis – three-step test that must be passed before a finding of guilt can be made in such circumstances where the trial consists of the testimony of Crown witnesses against the testimony of defence witnesses
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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