Most of us are familiar with the basic procedure for a criminal trial: charges are brought forth, a court hearing takes place, and the judge eventually decides on a verdict. But how do things change when one individual is charged with multiple criminal offences?
It often comes down to whether a charge is seen as a summary or indictable offence. You might be familiar with these terms already, but here’s a quick review:
- Summary offences are less serious; they include charges like possession of drugs or soliciting prostitution.
- Indictable offences are more severe. They include murder, sexual assault, and acts of terrorism.
According to the Canadian Criminal Code, multiple counts of indictment charges can be tried separately. However, it is up to the court to decide whether or not to do so.
The court handles these situations on a case-by-case basis. Depending on the nature of the offence, multiple trials may be held; alternatively, there might be one joint trial. How do court officials make this decision, and how might it affect the outcome of a case?
Why Joint Trials Are Held
A few distinct benefits may persuade a judge to join two trials as one. These include:
- A reduced strain on the criminal justice system. If the court system has limited resources, it may infringe on the accused person’s right to a speedy trial. Joining both trials can expedite the process; however, it could impact the fairness of the trial.
- See connections between related incidents. When two criminal offences are related, having a joint trial allows prosecutors and defendants to make connections between the cases. This may work out to the benefit or the detriment of the accused.
- Reduced emotional hardship for witnesses. Testifying against someone can be traumatic for victims of serious crimes. If two trials are merged into one, witnesses only need to testify once. This can make a difficult process easier for victims.
While these factors will be considered, the judge must prioritize the fairness of the trial above all else. If joining two or more charges will create an unfair situation for the accused, the trials may need to be severed.
Dealing With Potential Prejudice
If an individual is charged with multiple offences for the same incident, it seems logical to hold one trial for an event. But what if two separate incidents occurred, with each resulting in criminal charges against the accused? Should separate trials be held?
It may be more convenient to handle two trials as one, but if both incidents occurred separately and have different evidence, concerns about bias and prejudice may arise. Without separate court hearings, an individual’s right to a fair trial may be infringed upon. If multiple charges are heard in the same courtroom, the outcome of one trial could influence another.
It’s up to the discretion of a judge whether or not to hold a joint trial. Do you believe that a joint trial will infringe upon your rights? If so, you can contact a criminal lawyer who can create a strong argument for your case.
When you need a DUI lawyer in Winnipeg, contact Brodsky Amy & Gould. We can help with a variety of offences, including those related to theft, firearms, murder, and more. Contact us today to learn more about your right to a fair trial.