Most often, when your child is charged with a criminal offence, he or she will be released from the police station with a piece of paper titled Undertaking to a Peace Officer. Sometimes though, if the charges are particularly serious, or if your child already has a history with the criminal justice system, upon arrest he or she will not be released from the police station. Instead, your child will be transported by police from the station to the courthouse to appear in bail court. The timing of this move depends on when your child was taken into custody, but the police are obligated to bring any person taken into custody to court within twenty four hours.
In Ottawa, bail court runs every day of the week, including weekends and holidays. The purpose of bail court is to decide whether despite the seriousness of the allegations and/or despite your child’s history with the criminal justice system, he or she can be released back into the community rather than remaining in custody while dealing with the criminal allegations.
There are two potential mechanisms through which your child can be released on bail from court. The first being with the Prosecutor’s consent, and the second being as a result of bail hearing.
In order to get the Prosecutor to consent to your child’s release, your lawyer will attend court and meet with the Prosecutor to provide details in relation to where your child will be living, and who will be able to supervise him or her. If the Prosecutor is satisfied with this plan of release, they will consent to your child’s release with a number of conditions/rules that your child will need to follow.
If the Prosecutor is not satisfied, they will not consent, at which point your child’s lawyer can schedule a bail hearing. At a bail hearing your child’s lawyer will argue for his or her release, and the Prosecutor will argue against it. Often witnesses will be called at a bail hearing in order to present a bail plan. Those witnesses will be asked questions by both your child’s lawyer and the prosecutor. At the end of the hearing the Justice of the Peace will decide whether your child will be released on bail or not. It is important to remember that this is not a trial, guilt or innocence in relation to the allegations is not the issue. The only issue to be considered at a bail hearing is whether your child can be released back into the community on bail or not. Most young persons should and will ultimately be released on bail.
If your child wins the bail hearing he or she will be released with conditions to follow. For more information about conditions of release read my blog post about your child’s Undertaking to a Peace Officer. The importance of following the rules applies equally whether they are rules imposed by an officer after release from the police station or whether they are rules imposed by the court after release from bail court.