The First Court Appearance
Once you have been released from custody, you will be required to appear in Court for a “first appearance”. Rest assured, your trial will NOT take place at your first appearance. No witnesses will be present, and no evidence will be called against you. The first appearance is an opportunity for the Crown to provide “disclosure” to an accused person.
Disclosure is basically paper documentation (and in many cases video evidence) that outlines the allegations against an accused person. Disclosure will often include the notes of police officers, statements taken from witnesses, video footage, photographs, and computer data, among other things. The disclosure will outline the evidence with which the Crown Attorney intends to prosecute an accused person. At the first appearance there might be disclosure that is not yet available, as it can often take weeks or even months for disclosure to be complete.
It is strongly recommended that accused persons hire a lawyer before their first appearance. There are many advantages to taking this course of action. In some cases, evidence needs to be gathered and preserved immediately. For instance, many security cameras will have their footage erased every seven days. It is also important that you speak to a lawyer as soon as possible so that details which may be important do not fade from your memory, which may happen if you delay speaking to a lawyer.
In Toronto and Brampton the courts are very busy. Your lawyer, several months later may want to argue that the trial took too long and ask for a stay of proceedings (this is equal in law to an acquittal) for unreasonable delay. Not having counsel at the first appearance may signal to the court that you were not ready to proceed and prejudice your future argument that your matter was unreasonably delayed.
Another reason why having a lawyer at your first appearance is beneficial is that you will have your case dealt with by the Court before unrepresented accused people. If properly retained, Gregory Leslie normally has its clients sign a designation, which is a document that allows us to attend court on your behalf. Our clients do not have to worry about attending the numerous court appearances which your case will likely require before trial, and you will not have to miss work.