Bail in Ontario

Bail is permission from the court allowing an individual who has been charged with a criminal offence to be released from custody while they await trial. However, not everyone who has been charged with a criminal offence is held in custody and brought to bail court. When an individual is charged with a criminal offence, the police may: 1) issue a summons to appear in court on a given date (a promise to appear); or 2) take the individual to court where a decision to release them or not will be made by a judge or a justice of the peace. The latter involves what is called a bail hearing or a show cause hearing.

In a bail hearing, the Crown is the first to present its case. The Crown will present the allegations against the accused to the court by either reading out the allegations found in the police report or will call a witness to testify. Generally speaking, the police officer in charge of the investigation is the witness. Following the Crown’s case, the accused’s counsel will present evidence to rebut the allegations presented by the Crown. The accused’s counsel can also call witnesses to testify. Usually, the accused or a surety or even both may testify. The purpose of the bail hearing is to try to convince the court that if released, the accused will abide by the terms of the bail and will appear at all future court appearances as required. The judge or justice of the peace will then make a decision. In the event that an accused is denied bail, the accused is allowed to seek a review from a higher court. This process is called a bail review.

The Crown, police, and court generally look at various factors when deciding whether to release an accused or not. While the following is by no means exhaustive, it is an example of the factors considered. They may look at how serious the charges are, whether the accused is facing other charges, if the accused has a criminal record, whether the accused has previously failed to appear for court appearances, and whether the accused has sufficient ties to the community so as not to present a flight risk.

In some cases, the accused (or a surety) will have to deposit money with the court in order to be released. This occurs if the accused does not live in Ontario or lives 200km or more from the place they are in jail. However, it is more common for the accused (or a surety) to promise to pay rather than actually depositing the money. If an accused breaches the terms of bail, the accused (or a surety) can lose some or all of the money promised. A surety’s basic responsibilities are to ensure that the accused attends court as required and follows the terms of bail. In the event that an accused does not have a surety, the accused may have to report regularly to the police or another organization tasked with the monitoring/supervision of individuals on bail.

We can assist you in developing a strong plan of release during such stressful times. Please contact our office for more information.

Note: This article is not intended as legal advice and should not be relied upon as such.