What to Expect at Your Criminal Trial?

July 8, 2017
You may have your criminal trial at 361 University, Superior Court in Toronto.
You may have your criminal trial at 361 University, Superior Court in Toronto.
  • In the event that you have been charged with a criminal offence and your criminal defence lawyer is unable to resolve your matter through pre-trial discussions, you may choose to take your matter to trial to fight the allegations you are facing.
The Election Process:
  • If you are charged with certain offences, prior to your trial your criminal defence lawyer will elect.  At this time you will choose to have a trial by a provincial court judge, by a superior court judge alone, or by a superior court judge and jury.
  • Your criminal defence lawyer will use their knowledge of the case and their experience to make an election that is in your best interest.
  • If you are being tried by judge and jury the jury selection will commence on the first day of your trial.
  • The Crown and your criminal defence lawyer will select the jury, each with an equal number of challenges to the other's selections.

Who Will be Present at my Trial? 

1.  The trial judge: The trial judge is independent and impartial. Their role is to ensure that you have a fair trial. They will hear evidence and hear the arguments presented by the Crown and your defence lawyer. They decide your guilt or innocence, unless you elected to have jury.  They will determine your sentence should you be found guilty.

2. Your criminal defence lawyer: Your criminal defence lawyer's role is to represent you. They will defend the allegations you are facing, using their knowledge of the law and their skills to construct arguments on your behalf.

3. The Crown Attorney. The Crown Attorney is the government representative who is responsible for  prosecuting the charge(s) against you. They will attempt to prove the essential elements of the criminal offences you are facing beyond a reasonable doubt.

4. You, the accused person is  entitled to hear all of the evidence, including all witness testimony.

5. The court clerk. The court clerks role is to assist the judge. They are responsible for reading your criminal charges  out loud, asking if you plead guilty or not guilty, swearing or affirming witnesses, and managing the exhibits during the trial.

6. The court reporter or court monitor is responsible for making a record of what is said during the trial, or for monitoring equipment that records everything that is said.

  •  Typically at the beginning of the trial, your criminal defence lawyer or the Crown will ask the trial judge to order all witnesses in the case to remain outside the courtroom until they testify. This excludes the accused.

Trial Overview

Arraignment and election

Your trial will start with an arraignment. You will be asked to confirm your name, the charges against you will be read out loud, and you will be asked how you plead.

Case for the prosecution:

Crown opening statement: The judge may ask the Crown to give an overview of the allegations against you and the evidence to be called.

Examination-in-chief: The Crown calls their witnesses first. The Crown will ask the witnesses questions to elicit evidence that supports the Crown’s case. This is called examination-in-chief.

Cross-examination:  After the Crown finishes their exaimination-in-chief your defence lawyer will usually cross-examine each Crown witness, asking them questions that will assist with your defence.

Re-examination: When the defence finishes their cross-examination of a witness, the Crown may re-examine that witness about anything new brought out in your cross-examination.

Case For The Defence:
  • Typically once the Crown has closed their case the defence will be called. At this time the Defence will call their witnesses  and ask questions to support their arguments and version of events .
  • You, the accused person, may or may not testify at your trial. Your defence lawyer will advise you on what is the best choice for you.
  • The examination-in-chief, cross-examination and re-examination processes described above applies to defence witnesses as well, except the role is reversed for your defence lawyer and the Crown.

Closing submissions

  • After all the evidence is presented, the defence and the Crown will make closing submissions about why you should be found not guilty or guilty.
  • Closing submissions will be based on evidence that was heard during the trial and inferences that can be drawn from this evidence.


  • If you have a trial by jury, the jury will take time to deliberate. This deliberation may be short or lengthy. In order to find you guilty or innocent the jury must come to a consensus.
  • If they cannot a mistrial may be declared by the judge. In the case of a mistrial the Crown attorney's office will decide if they are going to prosecute you again.
  • If you have a trial by judge alone the judge will find you not guilty or guilty, either immediately or after an adjournment to later.
  • At the time of judgement the judge is obligated to  provide clear and meaningful reasons for judgment.


  • If you are found guilty, the judge may sentence you immediately or adjourn sentencing to another time or date.
  • It is up to the the  judge alone to decide what sentence to impose.
  • Before you are sentenced, the judge will hold a sentence hearing at which time your defence lawyer and the Crown will have the opportunity to tell the judge what they think the appropriate sentence should be and why.


  • You have the right to appeal a conviction or sentence or both within the time fixed by law.
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