A bail hearing, especially if it’s your first, can be nerve-wracking. Knowing that a wrong turn in the hearing could send you into court custody until your trial is over is enough reason to worry about a bail hearing.
In Ontario, if your bail is denied, you will be held in custody for the entire trial period. To increase the likelihood of your bail hearing going your way, you will need to prepare properly for it. Here are a few ways you can do this.
1. Contact Your Lawyer
Don’t attempt to proceed for a bail hearing without a criminal lawyer. You need to get in touch with a criminal defence lawyer as soon as possible to let them know you will be going for a bail hearing. If you cannot afford a lawyer, request for a duty counsel in court to help you out. The duty counsel will interview you at the cells before you appear for your hearing. During this interview, let your counsellor understand your criminal record, medical history, and whether other charges have been levelled against you.
2. Consent Releases and Contested Bail Hearings
Familiarize yourself with consent releases and contested bail hearings. In consent release, the Crown prosecutor agrees with the Crown to release you on certain conditions. A ‘consent release’ is then proposed to the court, which decides whether or not the proposed “consent release” should be granted.
If the ‘consent for release’ is rejected, your lawyer could pursue a “contested bail hearing”, during which the Crown will press for a bail denial while your lawyer will seek to convince the court that it is safe to release you on bail. The final decision on whether to grant or deny bail will, however, lie with the judge.
3. Get a Surety
This is the time to contact people who are willing to provide surety for you. Contact family members and friends who may be willing to act as your surety. This will involve having that person supervising you after you are released on bail and ensure that you appear for trial. A surety must be a Canadian citizen or a landed immigrant aged 18 years and above. They should not be party to the offence you are charged with and should, ideally, act as surety for you alone. They should also not have a criminal record.
4. Contact the Bail Program
Should you fail to get a surety, the bail program is a viable alternative. In this case, a court’s caseworker is given the responsibility of supervising you. If you are granted a bail program as a surety, you will be required to report at their office regularly besides following other conditions as the program may deem necessary. You may have difficulty securing this surety if you have in the past violated the rules of a bail program, or if the nature of the crime you have committed is too serious to risk your release.
5. Prepare Your Bail Strategy
The Crown may be hesitant to release you citing certain grounds of detention. Preempt the Crown’s concerns, especially if it refuses to release you in spite of the fact that you are in custody. In deciding grounds for detention, the Crown may consider your possibility of failing to appear in court whenever required, the chance that you might commit another crime, or concern that the safety of the public may be jeopardized.
It may also reject your bail application if in its view the justice system may be misconstrued to be ineffective. Depending on the concerns of the Crown, work with your lawyer to prepare a bail plan that addresses these concerns
6. Attend Your Bail Hearing
Your lawyer or counsel will present your bail plan to the court. During this presentation, your surety may be called in to testify. You could also testify on your own behalf should you choose to do so.
Should your bail be granted, you will have to adhere to certain conditions set by the court.