What to do before your first appearance at criminal court

Whether you’re released by the police or on bail, you will get a piece of paper called a release document that gives you the:

  • date
  • time
  • location

of your first court date.

What is first appearance?

This is not your trial date.

This is when you go to court to find out about the case against you and what your options are.

Your first court date is about:

  • getting information
  • getting organized
  • starting to think about what you might want to do with your case.

Depending on what you want to do with your case (like if you decide to plead guilty), you may or may not have a trial.

Things to consider before your first appearance

Get your disclosure

Your disclosure is the copy of information that the Crown and police have collected. It can include:

  • investigating officer notes
  • witness statements
  • diagrams
  • photographs
The disclosure package

The disclosure package will also have a charge screening form that tells you whether or not the Crown will ask for a jail sentence if you plead guilty or if you’re found guilty after a trial.

You will get your disclosure from the Crown when you’re standing at the front of the courtroom, after your name has been called.

Not comfortable speaking in English?

You can get an interpreter for free.

  • Call the courthouse that is listed on your release document and leave a message with:
    • your full name
    • the language you speak
    • the date and time you are coming to court
    • the courtroom number

Things to bring to court

  • any papers the police or anyone else gave you relating to your charge
  • any papers you think might be important to your case
  • any papers relating to your income you may need to apply for legal aid if you can’t afford a lawyer

When to see duty counsel?

If you don’t have a lawyer, it’s helpful to see duty counsel after you’ve received your disclosure because then this lawyer can see what the case is against you and let you know what your options are.

What happens during first appearance?

  1. The courthouse you have to go to for your first court appearance will be listed on your release document.

  2. Get your disclosure, which is the case against you.

  3. Take your disclosure to a courthouse lawyer known to duty counsel to find out what your options are.

  4. Find out what the Crown Attorney would recommend to the judge in terms of a sentence if you choose to plead guilty.

Tips

  • Arrive at least 30 minutes before you have to be in court.
  • Try to be in the courtroom before court starts so that when your name is called, you can go to the front of the courtroom and speak to the judge.