Election & Plea

If you are charged with a criminal offence, you may be wondering what kind of trial you can have and what pleas you can make. Staying informed will help to protect your rights. Once charges have been issued, you will have several important decisions to make that will affect the outcome of your case. To learn about the electives given to an accused person, and the pleas available, keep reading:

Elections are options given to an accused person after they’re charged with an indictable offence. The Crown decides whether they will warrant summary conviction proceedings or an indictment. The first is a less serious offence, which takes place in a provincial court. With an indictment, there will be a longer sentence if the trial results in a conviction – for this reason, the person can elect for which method of trial they want. They can pick between three methods of being tried: The defendant can choose to have a trial by a Provincial Court judge (no jury), a Supreme Court judge and jury, or a Supreme Court judge without a jury. 

If the accused person chooses to have their trial in Supreme Court, they then must decide whether they want a preliminary inquiry, in which the judge reviews the evidence in their case to decide if there’s enough to require a trial. If it’s found that there is not enough evidence, then the accused person is discharged and the case is dismissed. A preliminary inquiry can help you if you want to hear the case against you, or you want the Crown to be aware of the weaknesses in the prosecutor’s case. But it may not be to your benefit if it delays your trial or gives the prosecutor time to fix the weaknesses in their case. To decide which course of action is best for you, it’s best to consult a criminal defence lawyer.

In Canada, three pleas are available to those who are accused. They can plead guilty, not guilty, or a special plea that is authorized by the criminal code. If you plead not guilty, then you are denying the charges against you by the Crown Prosecutor. It results in a dispute – the accused person thinks they should be acquitted, while the prosecutor seeks their conviction. A trial will be scheduled in which a judge will settle the issue. Pleading guilty results in sentencing. It means that the accused person is admitting that they have committed the crime(s) they’ve been charged with. The length of the sentence will depend on a range of factors and is up to the judge’s discretion.

The special pleas are autrefois convict or autrefois acquit. Autrefois convict, French for previously convicted, is when the defendant claims they have already been convicted of the same offense, and therefore cannot be tried for it a second time. If an accused person pleads autrefois acquit, then they are claiming that they’ve already been acquitted for this offence. Finally, there is the plea of pardon – it asks the government to relieve the accused person of the consequences of their conviction. 

To assist with making these decisions, you will need trusted advice from a well-versed attorney. Winnipeg criminal law firms can give you the representation that you need. One of the experienced lawyers at Brodsky Amy & Gould will review your options with you and help you with your case.