Criminal Law

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Alcohol Ignition Interlock Program

This page gives legal information only, not legal advice.

Q - What is the Alcohol Ignition Interlock Program?

The Alcohol Ignition Interlock Program (the 'Program') is for drivers who are:

  • prohibited from driving because they have been convicted of an alcohol related driving offence under the Criminal Code of Canada, or
  • required by the Registrar of Motor Vehicles to participate in the Program.

The Program may allow you to drive with a conditional 'interlock' driver's license for part of the time that your license is revoked and you are subject to a prohibition order.

To participate in the Program you must:

  • apply to the Registrar of Motor Vehicles and be accepted into the Program. Acceptance is not automatic, and there are fees for being in the Program
  • have an interlock ignition device installed in your vehicle
  • go to Addiction Services for rehabilitation, counselling and education. This includes the 'Driving While Impaired' education program, a risk assessment, evaluation for alcohol or drug use, and counselling sessions
  • meet all other Program eligibility requirements and conditions
  • otherwise be eligible for a driver's license.

The Registry of Motor Vehicles runs the Program. Addiction Services - www.addictionservices.ns.ca, operated by the various Health Authorities, provide mandatory counselling services.

Q - What factors are looked at to decide whether I will be accepted into the Program?

If you are eligible for and apply to participate in the Program, the Registrar of Motor Vehicles will look at the following factors in deciding whether you will be accepted:

  • your driving history, especially alcohol-related incidents, whether or not you were convicted under the Criminal Code
  • any information about you provided by Addiction Services
  • any information about your participation in an alcohol rehabilitation program
  • any medical or other information relevant to your ability to drive and be in the Program.

Q - What is an alcohol interlock ignition device?

An interlock device is an alcohol breath-screening device installed in your vehicle's ignition system. You blow into the device, which measures blood alcohol levels. The vehicle will not start if your blood-alcohol reading is above .02 mg of alcohol per 100 ml of blood. Information recorded on the interlock device must be downloaded every 60 days, and is used in deciding whether the person should stay in the Program.

Q - Is the Alcohol Ignition Interlock Program mandatory?

The Program is:

  • optional for first-time impaired drivers who are assessed by Addiction Services as low- or medium-risk to re-offend
  • mandatory for drivers who want to get their license back and are:
    • repeat and high-risk impaired drivers*
    • convicted of impaired driving causing bodily harm or death
    • required to participate by the Registrar of Motor Vehicles.

*Repeat offenders who have 4 or more impaired driving convictions in a ten year period, and whose license is permanently revoked as a result, are not eligible for the Program.

Q - When am I eligible to get an interlock license?

If you have been issued a prohibition order under the Criminal Code, you must wait the following time period before you can get a license:

  • 3 months from the date of sentencing for a 1st offence;
  • 6 months for a 2nd offence; and
  • 12 months for any subsequent offence. 

However, you can start the application process and required Alcohol Assessment before this time elapses.

*A person convicted of impaired driving causing bodily harm or death is not eligible for early reinstatement, but must participate in the Program at the end of their revocation period to get their license restored.

Q - How long will I have to be in the Program?

The minimum length of time you must be in the Program depends on the number of alcohol-related convictions you have had. You will find a list of the minimum periods in the Alcohol Ignition Interlock Program User's Handbook (a Nova Scotia government publication), which is online at www.interlock.gov.ns.ca, or call (902) 424-5851 or 1 800 898-7668.

You must apply to be released from the Program and the Registrar can extend the minimum period. In determining whether to allow someone to exit the program, the Registrar will consider:

  • results of reports from the interlock service provider
  • how often the vehicle was operated by the driver
  • any incidents or reports of alcohol-related driving
  • any other information or factor the Registrar considers relevant.

Q - Can I be dismissed from the Program after I'm accepted?

Yes. The Registrar of Motor Vehicles may dismiss a person from the Program at any time for any reason.
If you are dismissed:

  • You must be notified in writing, by registered mail.
  • Your interlock license is automatically revoked.
  • You must wait at least 90 days before you can re-apply to be accepted back into the Program.
  • Time already spent in the Program will not count, and you will have to restart your minimum time period if you are accepted back into the Program.

Q - How much does the Program cost?

Participants pay about $1700 to $2000 to the service provider for their first year in the program. This does not include other costs associated with alcohol-related convictions, such as legal fees, court fines, increased insurance premiums. In addition, participants will incur the following fees:

  • $36.25 interlock application fee
  • $114.33 license re-instatement fee
  • $417.52 Addiction Services fee for Alcohol Rehabilitation Program

Q - What are some of the offences under the ignition interlock program rules?

It is an offence to:

  • Tamper with an ignition interlock device, or drive a vehicle in which the device has been tampered with
  • Not have your interlock device inspected at least once every 60 days.
  • Ask someone else to give a breath sample so you can start the vehicle or keep it moving.
  • Help someone who has an interlock license start their vehicle or keep it moving by blowing into the interlock device for them.
  • Allowing a person who holds an interlock license to operate a motor vehicle that is not equipped with an interlock device.

Penalties for these offences start at $685.21 (passenger vehicle) or $1,835.21 (commercial vehicle) for a first offence.

Q - Where can I get more information?

For more information about the Alcohol Ignition Interlock Program call (902) 424-5851 or 1 800 898-7668, or visit www.interlock.gov.ns.ca. You can download the form for applying to the Program, and the Alcohol Ignition Interlock Program User's Handbook, at www.interlock.gov.ns.ca.

For information about Addiction Services, including the 'Driving While Impaired' education program, go to www.addictionservices.ns.ca, or call your local Addiction Services office, listed under Health Promotion and Protection in the government blue pages of the telephone book.

August 2011

Bail

 

Q -What is bail?

A - Bail is a process in which a person charged with an offence is released from custody with or without conditions pending final disposition of his or her case. The police may release you within 24 hours with or without conditions requiring you to come to court.  If you are arrested and detained at the police station, you have the right to a bail hearing before a judge.  If you are arrested over the weekend or when court is not sitting, you may appear before a justice of the peace first who, if you are not released at that time, may then remand you to a judge for a bail hearing.  When you first appear before a judge, a bail hearing is not likely to occur.  A bail hearing will occur no more than three working days after your first appearance at  court when the judge sets the time and date for the bail hearing. 

At a bail hearing a Justice of the Peace or Judge determines if you should be released or held in custody until your trial. You will be released without conditions unless the Crown Attorney shows cause (provides sufficient reasons) why you should be detained, or that there should be conditions put on your release. These hearings are known as "show cause" or 'judicial interim release' hearings.

Q - What is a judicial interim release?

A - A judicial interim release is an order by a Judge or Justice of the Peace that frees an accused person from custody prior to trial.

Q - What is a surety?

A - A surety is a person who enters into a bond for a certain amount of money or security on behalf of another person. The person is responsible for the accused person appearing in court and abiding by court imposed conditions. If the accused person does not comply, the surety may forfeit all or part of the bond.

Q - Does a judge have to grant bail?

A - No. However, Section 11(e) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the accused the right not to be denied reasonable bail without just cause.

There are some very serious crimes (set out in Section 469 of the Criminal Code of Canada) for which a judge may not grant bail unless the accused can show cause why he or she should be released. Examples are where the accused is charged with murder or treason. Other examples, where it is up to the accused to show cause why he or she should be released, are where the accused has failed to appear in court in the past or where the accused has been charged with violating a bail.

In all other cases, the Judge must grant bail unless the Crown Attorney shows that it is necessary to keep the accused in custody for one or more of the following reasons:

  • To ensure the accused attends court. For example the accused may have a history of not coming to court when required.
  • In order to protect the public including a victim or witnesses. For example, there is a strong likelihood that the accused will commit another offence if released from custody.
  • Any other reason which shows that detention is necessary in order to maintain confidence in the administration of justice.

Q - Do I need a lawyer for a bail hearing?

A - Yes, if you can't afford a lawyer, you may qualify for Legal Aid. You should contact Legal Aid or your lawyer as soon as possible after your arrest. Often there will be a Legal Aid lawyer at the court. A lawyer will be familiar with the rules and conditions for release, and can assist with issues of fact or evidence that may arise.

Q - What are the terms and conditions of a judicial interim release?

A - At a bail hearing, the judge has many options, but must release the accused on the least restrictive terms possible. You may be released on your promise to appear at the trial. Otherwise, if the Crown Attorney shows cause why you should not be unconditionally released, the judge may put conditions on your release. These conditions could include

  • reporting to the police regularly,
  • staying in the province and turning in your passport
  • staying away from the victim and other witnesses and/or co-accused
  • staying away from alcohol or drugs
  • not possessing firearms
  • paying money to the court to ensure that you attend the trial
  • providing a surety to ensure your attendance in court. A surety pledges property or other assets which may be forfeited if the accused fails to attend or violates the conditions of release
  • any other condition that the judge decides is appropriate in the circumstances

Q - What if the accused breaks the terms of bail?

A - A Judge or Justice of the Peace may issue a warrant for the arrest of the accused if he or she is satisfied that there are reasonable grounds to believe that an accused has violated or is about to violate the terms of bail or has committed an indictable (serious) offence. The same applies if the accused fails to show up for court.

Breaking a bail condition without a reasonable excuse is a criminal offence that is punishable by up to two years imprisonment depending on how serious the breach is. Violations include failure to appear in court. As well as being charged criminally, your bail may be revoked and you may be detained in custody until the court has dealt with the original offence.

Finally, if security was posted by you or your surety the Crown Attorney may ask for it to be forfeited.

Q - Can a victim object to bail?

A - A victim who is concerned about the accused being released from custody should contact the Crown Attorney who can bring those concerns to the attention of the judge. The victim's concerns may be considered by the judge in deciding whether the accused is a threat to the safety of the public. If the accused is released on bail, the Crown Attorney or police may ask the judge to include a condition that the accused have no contact with the victim.

Q - Can a bail hearing be adjourned?

A - Yes. You or the Crown Attorney may ask the judge to adjourn that is to delay, a bail hearing. The hearing can only be adjourned for three days, if the Crown Attorney asks for the adjournment but you do not agree to it.

Q - Can an order granting or denying bail be appealed?

A - Yes. The Crown or the Defence may make an application to the Nova Scotia Supreme Court to review a bail order.

Q - Where can I get information on Crown Attorneys?

A - Crown Attorneys work for the Public Prosecution Service, either federally or provincially. The website for the Nova Scotia Public Prosecution Service is www.gov.ns.ca/pps You can also look in the blue pages of the phone book under 'Public Prosecution'.  The website for the Public Prosecution Service of Canada is http://www.ppsc-sppc.gc.ca

Last reviewed: December 2015

 

Complaints against the RCMP

This page gives information only, not legal advice. If you have a legal problem or need legal advice, you should speak to a lawyer.

This page explains how to make a complaint against the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). 

Who can make a complaint?

Anyone, including a non-citizen, who has a concern about the on-duty conduct of an RCMP member can make a complaint.

How do you make a complaint against the RCMP?

You make a complaint to the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP (the Commission), or at an RCMP detachment. The Commission is an independent federal agency that deals with complaints against the RCMP. The Commission is not part of the RCMP, and is neutral. The Commission works in English and French. It also offers interpretation services for other languages.  Click here to download an information brochure.

 You can make a complaint by phone, by fax, by mail or online.

By phone—call the Commission at its toll-free number: 1-800-665-6878. Its TTY toll-free number is 1‑866-432-5837. They are open Monday to Friday.

Online—on the Commission’s website, using this form.

By fax or mail—use the form on the Commission's website and fax it to 604-501-4095, or mail it to:

Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP
National Intake Office
PO Box 88689, Surrey, BC V3W 0X1

Make your complaint as soon as possible after an incident, while memories are fresh and evidence is still available. The law requires that a complaint be made within one year of an incident. The Commission may extend that time period in certain circumstances if there are good reasons to do so.

In most cases, the Commission sends a complaint to the RCMP for investigation. In certain circumstances, the Commission can investigate the complaint itself. The RCMP investigates your complaint and then reports in writing to you. If you are satisfied with the report, that’s the end of the process.

What if you are not satisfied with the RCMP’s report on your complaint?

You can ask the Commission to review your complaint within 60 days of receiving the RCMP’s report. The Commission can extend that time period if there are good reasons to do so. The Commission will review the RCMP’s report. The Commission obtains from the RCMP all the relevant material required to review the complaint.

In conducting the review, the Commission Chair may:

  • review the complaint without investigating further.
  • ask the RCMP to investigate further.
  • conduct its own investigation.
  • hold a public hearing.

If the Commission is satisfied with the RCMP’s report, it sends you a final report with its reasons. It also sends its report to the Minister of Public Safety Canada (the Minister), the RCMP Commissioner, and the officer(s) you complained about. That’s the end of the process.

If the Commission is not satisfied with the RCMP’s report, the Chair sends an interim report to the RCMP Commissioner and the Minister. The RCMP Commissioner will reply to it explaining what the RCMP will do, if anything. The Chair then sends a final report to you, the Minister, the RCMP Commissioner, and the RCMP officer(s) involved.

June 2016

 

 

Criminal records and pardons (record suspension)

This page gives general information only, and is not meant to replace legal advice from a lawyer.

The federal law dealing with pardons changed effective March 13, 2012. The new rules:

  • Changed the term ‘pardon’ to ‘record suspension’. This page therefore uses the term record suspension
  • Increased waiting periods for applying for a record suspension
  • Limit who is eligible for a record suspension.

You do not need a lawyer or other representative to apply for a record suspension. If you have questions about or want to apply for a record suspension, you should contact the Parole Board of Canada at www.pbc-clcc.gc.ca or call their Record Suspension info line toll free at 1-800-874-2652.

Q - Does everyone who has been convicted of an offence have a criminal record?

Anyone who is 18 years of age or older and has been convicted of a criminal offence has a criminal record. If you have been convicted of a provincial offence - for example, a ticket under the Motor Vehicle Act, Liquor Control Act, or Protection of Property Act - you will not have a criminal record for that offence. Go to the ‘Tickets’ page for information about provincial summary offence tickets.

Q - Who can find out that I have a criminal record?

A criminal record is not a public document. Your neighbour or your boss cannot contact the police and find out if you have a criminal record. However, police, judges, crown prosecutors, border services officers, and other officials may see your criminal record. For example, police use criminal records when they are investigating crimes, and judges use the information when sentencing someone who has committed crimes in the past.

Also, sometimes you may be asked about your criminal record, or you may be asked to consent to provide a criminal record check or vulnerable sector check, such as if you are applying for a job or for some types of volunteer work, particularly those involving children or other vulnerable people.

Having a criminal record may seriously affect your ability to obtain employment or volunteer positions, and to travel internationally.

Visit the Canadian Police Information Centre ('CPIC') website at www.cpic-cipc.ca and the Canadian Criminal Real Time Identification Services website at www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/cr-cj/ for more information about criminal records and criminal record or vulnerable sector checks.

Q - What is a record suspension?

If you get a record suspension the RCMP and any other federal agency or department that has a record of your conviction must keep your record separate from other criminal records. Once you have been given a record suspension, information about your conviction cannot be given out by the RCMP or other federal agencies without the approval of the Minister of Public Safety Canada.

Also, the Canadian Human Rights Act forbids federal agencies and departments from discriminating against a person who has a pardon or record suspension.

Q - Are there limitations to a record suspension?

Yes. A record suspension will not erase your conviction.

Also, even if you receive a record suspension, you will still have a driving or firearms prohibition if there was one related your conviction. If you were convicted of a sexual offence and you get a record suspension, the record will be kept separate but will be flagged in the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC) computer system. This means you may be asked to consent to let your employer see your record if you want to work with children or other vulnerable persons.

You should also keep in mind that the RCMP and other federal agencies or departments must keep your record separate, municipal and provincial police services and courts do not have to do so, although most do.

Lastly, a pardon or record suspension will not guarantee you entry or visa privileges into another country, so if you are planning to travel abroad you should contact that country’s consulate or embassy to find out its policies regarding criminal records and pardons/record suspensions.

You will find more information about criminal records and international travel online at:

Q - How soon can I get a record suspension?

You have to wait a certain length of time after the completion of your sentence before you're allowed to apply for a record suspension.

Your sentence is complete when three things have happened:

1. You have paid all fines, surcharges, costs, restitutions and compensation in full; and
2. You have served all of your time, including jail, house arrest, parole and statutory release; and
3. You have satisfied your probation order conditions.

Once your sentence is complete you can apply for a record suspension after waiting:

  • 5 years for a summary offence;
  • 10 years for an indictable (more serious) offence.

As of March 13, 2012 a record suspension is not available if you were convicted of:

  • sexual offences involving children, listed in a schedule to the Criminal Records Act. There are some limited exceptions;
  • more than 3 offences where the Crown treated it as an indictable offence, and you were sentenced to jail for 2 years or more for each offence.

Contact the Parole Board of Canada at www.pbc-clcc.gc.ca, or call their Record Suspension Info Line toll free at 1 800 874 2652 for further information.

Q - I received a discharge or other non-conviction. Do I need to apply for a record suspension?

No. If your record is an absolute or conditional discharge you do not need to apply for a record suspension. Discharges are automatically removed from the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC) system – 1 year after the court decision if you got an absolute discharge, and 3 years after you are discharged on conditions in a probation order (conditional discharge).

If you received a discharge before July 1992 you should contact the RCMP’s Record Suspension and Purge Services at Box 8885 Ottawa, ON K1G 3M8 Fax: 613-957-9063 or www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca For more information visit the RCMP’s Record Suspension and Purge Services web page at www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca.

You do not need to apply for a record suspension if charges were dismissed, stayed or withdrawn.

Q - How do I apply for a record suspension?

You will have to complete an application form. You can get the application form and a free Record Suspension Application Guide from any parole board or RCMP office or by contacting the Parole Board of Canada toll free at 1-800-874-2652, or online at www.pbc-clcc.gc.ca.

Q - Can I apply again if I don’t get a record suspension?

If the Parole Board does not grant you a record suspension, you have a right to re-apply after one year.

Q - Is there an application fee to get a record suspension?

Yes, there is a $631 processing fee for the application

Q - Do I need a lawyer to apply for a record suspension?

No, you do not need a lawyer or other representative to apply for a record suspension.

Q - Where can I get more information on record suspensions?

To get a record suspension application kit or help and information about record suspensions contact the Parole Board’s record suspension line toll free at 1-800-874-2652. Also, visit the Parole Board’s website at www.pbc-clcc.gc.ca

Updated January 2017

Drinking and Driving

This page gives legal information only, not legal advice.

Q - What might I be charged with if I drink and drive?

The most common drinking and driving offences are:

  • 'Impaired driving': driving while you are impaired by alcohol and/or drugs, including prescription or illegal drugs;
  • ‘Driving ‘over .08’ or ‘over 80’: Driving with a blood alcohol level that is more than 80 milligrams in 100 millilitres of blood;
  • ‘Refusal’: Failure or refusal to do physical sobriety tests or give a breath or blood sample when asked, without a reasonable excuse.

These are all crimes under the Criminal Code of Canada. You can be charged with any of these offences if you operate or have ‘care or control’ of a car, truck, boat, snowmobile, ATV, aircraft or other vehicle or vessel while impaired, or with a blood alcohol level over the legal limit. You may be charged even if you are not driving the vehicle, but it is in your ‘care or control’. The vehicle does not have to be moving. For example, you may have care or control if you are in the front seat with the car keys in your pocket, but the vehicle is parked and the ignition is off.

Q - What are the police allowed to do if they stop my vehicle?

If your vehicle is stopped by a police officer, the officer will usually ask to see your driver’s license and insurance. You must provide your license and insurance.

The officer may ask you questions like ‘Have you had anything to drink?’ or ‘When did you have your last drink?’ You are not legally required to answer the officer’s questions. You may politely refuse to answer.

Physical sobriety tests and roadside breath test:

If the police officer reasonably suspects that you have alcohol in your body and have driven or had care or control of a vehicle within the past 3 hours, the officer may demand:

  • that you do some physical sobriety tests to assess your coordination, such as walking heel-to-toe or standing on one leg; and/or
  • that you take a roadside breath test by blowing into a machine called an approved screening device (ASD).

If the police demand it, you must do the physical sobriety tests and/or take the breath test; otherwise, you may be charged with refusal (section 254(5) of the Criminal Code).

For physical sobriety tests or a roadside breath test the police do not have to tell you that you have a Charter right to contact a lawyer, and they do not have to wait until you speak with a lawyer before requiring you to take the test(s).

The roadside breath test will show a ‘pass’, ‘warn’ or ‘fail’. If the roadside breath test shows ‘warn’ or ‘fail’, the police officer will probably demand that you take the breathalyzer test.

Breathalyzer test:

If the police officer has good reason to believe ("reasonable grounds to believe") that you committed a drunk driving offence within the past 3 hours, such as after you took a roadside test, the officer can demand that you take a breathalyzer test off site. If a police officer demands that you take a breathalyzer test you must go with the police officer to take the test, usually to the police station. You are generally required to give at least two breath samples, spaced at least 15 minutes apart. You must give as deep a breath sample as the technician requires.

If you are asked to take a breathalyzer test the officer must tell you that you have a right to speak with a lawyer and must give you a reasonable chance to contact a lawyer before taking the test. These are your rights under the Charter. You should be given a chance to speak with a lawyer in private. Legal Aid Duty Counsel is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for people who have been arrested or detained by the police. It is free to talk with Legal Aid Duty Counsel. However, if you have a particular private lawyer that you would like to contact, you are entitled to request a lawyer by name.

The breathalyzer test measures your blood alcohol level. After you take the breathalyzer test the technician will give you a certificate with your test results. You should give this certificate to your lawyer.

If your breathalyzer results show that your blood alcohol level is over .08 you will be charged with over .08 (section 253(b) of the Criminal Code), and you may also be charged with operating a motor vehicle while impaired ('impaired driving' - section 253(a) of the Criminal Code).

Q - Can the police take a blood sample?

You might have to give a blood sample if the police officer has good reason ('reasonable grounds') to believe that you committed a drunk driving offence within the past 3 hours, and:

  • you are physically unable to give a breath sample, or
  • it is not practical for you to give a breath sample because of the circumstances.

Blood samples may only be taken by, or under the supervision of, a qualified medical professional who can verify that taking blood will not put your health or safety at risk.

Q - What if I refuse to take the breathalyzer test?

If you refuse the breathalyzer test you could be charged with the offence of ‘refusal’ or ’refusal to blow’.

The general rule is that you must take the breathalyzer test unless you have a reasonable excuse for refusing. It is not a reasonable excuse to say, for example, that you don’t think you are drunk or that you don’t think the police officer saw you driving. The law on this issue is very complicated. If a police officer demands that you take a breathalyzer test the best thing to do is use your right to speak with a lawyer, and take the lawyer’s advice.

Penalties for being convicted of a refusal to blow are the same as the penalties for impaired driving or driving with a blood alcohol level that is over .08.

Q - What are the penalties if I am convicted of impaired driving, driving with a blood alcohol level over the legal limit, or refusal?

  • First offence: fine of at least $1000, possibly up to $2000. Mandatory minimum driving prohibition: 1 year from the date of conviction, and possibly up to 3 years.
  • Second offence: minimum 30 days in jail. Mandatory minimum driving prohibition: 2 years from the date of conviction, and possibly up to 5 years.
  • Third or subsequent offence: minimum 120 days in jail. Mandatory minimum driving prohibition: 3 years from the date of conviction, and possibly for life.

In some cases a person may be allowed to drive during the driving prohibition period if they participate in an Alcohol Ignition Interlock Program.

The maximum jail term for these offences ranges from 18 months for a summary, or less serious offence, to 5 years for an indictable, or more serious offence. The Crown prosecutor decides whether to process the charge as a summary or indictable offence. If you are convicted of any of these offences you will also have a criminal record.

In addition, you may find it difficult to get insurance coverage and you can expect to pay very high insurance rates.

Q - Will I lose my driver’s license?

Roadside license suspension:

You may have your license suspended even if your blood alcohol level is .08 or less. If you get a 'warn' on your roadside screening test, or if your breathalyzer test shows a blood alcohol level between .05 and .08 (50 to 80 mg of alcohol in 100 mL of blood), you may have your driver's license suspended immediately.

Roadside license suspensions under Nova Scotia’s Motor Vehicle Act are:

  • 7 days for a first suspension within 10 years;
  • 15 days for a second suspension within 10 years;
  • 30 days for a third or subsequent suspension within 10 years.

3 month (90 day) administrative suspension:

If you take the breathalyzer and your test results show that you are over .08, or you refuse to take the breathalyzer, then, in addition to being charged criminally, your driver's license will be suspended for 3 months starting 7 days after the incident. The police officer will give you a temporary 7 day driver's license, and when that runs out your driver's license will be suspended for the following 3 months.

You can apply to the Registrar of Motor Vehicles through Access Nova Scotia to have this administrative suspension reviewed. To do this you must file an application for review, pay the required fee, and, if you haven’t already done so, hand-in your driver's license. If you want an oral hearing, you must ask for one.

After you file for a review and pay the fee, the review generally happens within 10 days for a review of written evidence, or within 20 days for an oral hearing.

Applying for a review does not stay (lift) the suspension of your driver's license.

If your appeal to the Registrar of Motor Vehicles is not successful, you can appeal the Registrar's decision to the Motor Vehicle Appeal Board.  You can contact the Motor Vehicle Appeal Board at:

Website: gov.ns.ca/snsmr/access/drivers/motor-vehicle-appeal-board.asp
Telephone: (902) 424-4256 or 1-855-424-4256
Address:  Motor Vehicle Appeal Board, Maritime Centre, 9 North, 1550 Barrington Street, Halifax NS B3J 3K5

The administrative suspension under the Motor Vehicle Act is in addition to any period of driving prohibition imposed by the criminal court if you are convicted of drinking and driving.

Criminal Code driving prohibitions:

If you are convicted of impaired driving, driving over .08, or refusal, you will be prohibited from driving for:

  • First offence: 1 year from the conviction date, possibly up to 3 years. If you participate in the ignition interlock program, you may drive again after 3 months' suspension
  • Second offence: 2 years from the conviction date, possibly up to 5 years. If you participate in the ignition interlock program, you may drive again after 6 months' suspension
  • Third or subsequent offence: 3 years from the conviction date, possibly for life. For a third offence only - if you participate in the ignition interlock program, you may drive again after 12 months' suspension.

Violations of Criminal Code driving prohibitions are a criminal offence. Penalties include fines, probation, and jail for up to 5 years.

The Registrar of Motor Vehicles may revoke a driver’s license for a longer period than the one imposed by the criminal court. Generally the Registrar of Motor Vehicles will revoke a driver’s license for 1 year for a first offence, 3 years for a second offence, 10 years for a third offence, and permanently for a fourth offence.  If you are convicted of impaired driving or driving over .08 and you had a child under 16 in your car when the crime happened, the Registrar of Motor Vehicles will revoke your license for an extra year (for example, at least 2 years for a first offence), and participation in the Alcohol Ignition Interlock Program will be mandatory.

Q - Is the Alcohol Ignition Interlock Program available in Nova Scotia?

Yes. The Alcohol Ignition Interlock Program allows you to drive during the mandatory driving prohibition period, as long as you meet all program conditions and are driving a vehicle in which an ignition interlock device has been installed.

The program is optional for most low and medium risk first-time impaired drivers, but mandatory for:

  • those convicted of impaired driving who had a child under 16 in the car when the offence happened; and
  • repeat and high risk impaired drivers; and
  • those convicted of impaired driving causing bodily harm or death.

To get back on the road repeat and high-risk impaired drivers must have an interlock ignition device installed in their vehicle, and must complete alcohol rehabilitation counselling and education. Program participants must have an interlock device fitted to their vehicle’s ignition. The driver blows into the device, which measures blood alcohol levels. The vehicle will not start if the driver’s blood-alcohol reading is above .02 mg of alcohol per 100 mL of blood. The driver must also periodically provide breath samples while the vehicle is running. Information recorded on the interlock device must be downloaded every 60 days, and is used in deciding whether the person should stay in the program.

The alcohol rehabilitation component of the program is operated by Addiction Services. It involves an alcohol or drug use evaluation, completion of the Driving While Impaired education program, a risk assessment, and counselling sessions. Participants pay about $1700 to $2000 for their first year in the program, in addition to about $400 for Addiction Services . This does not include other costs associated with alcohol-related convictions, such as legal fees, court fines, increased insurance premiums, and a license reinstatement fee.

Click here for more information about the Alcohol Ignition Interlock Program, or call Service Nova Scotia at (902) 424-5851 or 1 800 898-7668, or visit www.interlock.gov.ns.ca

Last reviewed: January 2016

Going to Provincial Court

You have been charged with a criminal offence. You have never been to court before.

You will find information here about:

  • when you have to be in court;
  • who will be in court;
  • how to prepare for trial; and
  • what happens in court.
This page gives general information about Going to Provincial Court. It does not give legal advice. If you are charged with a crime, you should speak with a lawyer to get legal advice. Try to speak with a lawyer before you go to court. Click here for ways to find a lawyer (Lawyers & Legal Advice).

 

What am I charged with?

What you are charged with is called an offence. There are offences under federal laws such as the Criminal Code. These are called criminal offences. There are offences under provincial laws such as the Motor Vehicle Act. These are NOT criminal offences, but can still have serious consequences.  Click here for information about tickets, called "Summary Offence Tickets", under Nova Scotia laws and some federal laws.

No matter what type of offence you are charged with, you will receive a written notice describing the offence, the date of the offence and the law you allegedly broke. For example, if you are charged with shoplifting, the notice may say "theft under $5000 contrary to section 334(b) of the Criminal Code of Canada".

The notice may be called a Summons, an Appearance Notice, a Promise to Appear. It will also give the date and time that you have to go to court to answer the charge. You must go to court on the date and time listed on your notice. You may also be required to follow certain conditions while your case goes through the court system.  These conditions will be put in writing on an Undertaking or a Recognizance, and you will get a copy.

You should try to speak with a lawyer to get legal advice about your situation as soon as possible.

Are all offences treated the same?

No. There are two procedures for dealing with a criminal offence depending on how serious it is.

a) Indictable offences (pronounced in-DITE-able) are the most serious. Murder, aggravated sexual assault, robbery, break and enter and theft over $5000 are examples of some indictable offences.

b) Summary offences are less serious. Unless otherwise provided, they have a maximum penalty of a fine of $5000 or six months in prison (sometimes up to 18 months) or both. An example of a summary offence is causing a disturbance in public.  You cannot be fingerprinted for a summary conviction offence.

Sometimes the Crown Attorney can decide whether the offence will be treated as summary or indictable. These are sometimes called hybrid offences. Examples are theft under $5000 and impaired driving. The Crown Attorney decides which procedure to use and tells the judge on the first date that you are in court. The Crown Attorney is the lawyer who presents the case against you.

The police are allowed to assume that a hybrid offence will be treated as indictable. This allows them to demand that the accused provide photographs and fingerprints before the trial.

All offences under provincial laws such as the Motor Vehicle Act and the Liquor Control Act are dealt with by summary procedure.  Offences under provincial laws are not criminal. Click here for information about summary offence tickets, like traffic tickets, under provincial laws.

Will I get a criminal record?

You will get a criminal record if you are found guilty and convicted of a criminal offence (summary or indictable). However, if your sentence is an absolute or conditional discharge, you will not have a criminal record, although there will be a police record of the discharge.  Click here for information about criminal records and record suspensions (pardons).

You will not have a criminal record if you are found guilty of an offence under provincial law. Click here for information about summary offence tickets, like traffic tickets, under provincial law.

When do I have to go to court?

The written notice that tells you what you have been charged with will also say the date that you first have to go to court.

You must go to court on the date and at the time indicated. If you do not turn up, the judge may issue a warrant for your arrest. A warrant is an order of the court that allows the police to arrest you and hold you in custody (lock up) until they can take you before a judge.

If you have a good reason for not being in court, you should call the court office and let them know. You may also ask a friend or relative to go to court and explain why you are not there. A good reason might be if you are ill. You will need to provide the court with a written note from your doctor that you are too ill to attend court. Failing to show up because you are on holiday or at work is usually not a good reason.

You may want to visit the court before your court date so that you can watch what happens there. You will see where everyone sits and what they do and how the court operates. This may help you be more relaxed and less nervous when your court date comes up.

On the day you have to go to court, you should arrive 10 or 15 minutes before you have to. If there is more than one courtroom you can ask at the information desk which court you should be in. You can go into the courtroom and sit in the seats for the public which are towards the back of the court room.

There are Nova Scotia Legal Aid Duty Counsel services (free legal advice for your court appearance for that day) are available at most courts.  Ask at the information desk at court about Nova Scotia Legal Aid Duty Counsel.

Go to the Nova Scotia Courts website, Provincial Court section for more Frequently Asked Questions about court.

How many times do I have to go to court?

 In many cases, if you plead guilty, there may only be one court appearance. In most cases where you plead not guilty, there are at least two court appearances.

 There may be more than one court date:

a) If you or the Crown Attorney ask for adjournments (delays). For example, you might ask the judge for an adjournment to give you time to get legal advice. 

b) If you plead "not guilty" the judge will set a date for trial.

c) If you plead guilty, the judge may deal with the sentencing right away or set a date for sentencing. 

d) If you are found guilty at your trial, the judge may want time to consider what sentence to give you and set a date for sentencing.

Your first court appearance (arraignment)

This is often called the arraignment date. Nova Scotia Legal Aid has an Arraignment fact sheet.  The first appearance usually lasts no more than five to ten minutes. There will be a number of cases being dealt with by the court on the same day. Listen carefully so that you can hear when the court clerk calls your case. Cases where the accused has a lawyer are usually called first. The remaining matters are then called in alphabetical order.

The court clerk will read out your name. You should walk to the front of the court where the judge can see you.

The court clerk will read the "information", which contains the charge against you.

The judge will ask you if you understand the charge. Tell the judge if you do not
understand and he or she will explain it to you. If you do understand say so.

When you have told the judge that you understand the charge, he or she will ask you if you plead guilty or not guilty and how you elect (choose) to be tried. The judge will say "Are you prepared to plead?" .  Nova Scotia Legal Aid has a Pleas and Elections fact sheet.

Pleading guilty means that you admit that you committed the offence you are charged with.

Your choices are:

1. You can plead not guilty. The judge will then set a trial date.

2. You can ask for a delay (called an adjournment) if you need time to speak
with a lawyer.

3. You can plead guilty.

If you are not sure how to plead, the judge may adjourn the matter and give you time to speak with a lawyer, or enter a not guilty plea and set a date for trial.

It is your decision how you plead. Even if you decide not to hire a lawyer to represent you in court, you should get some legal advice about your situation before you decide how to plead.  It is extremely important that you get disclosure from the Crown, and review it with a lawyer if possible, before you enter a plea.

If you plead guilty the judge may sentence you then or set a date for sentencing.

You or the Crown Attorney may ask the judge to order a background report be prepared on you. This is called a pre-sentence report and is prepared by a probation officer.

Click here for information about sentencing.

Election

With some indictable offences, you may elect (choose) how to be tried. This means you elect whether to be tried in

  • Provincial Court by a judge alone;
  • in Supreme Court by a judge alone; or,
  • in Supreme Court by a judge and jury.

Your next court appearance

If your case is adjourned (postponed) to allow you to get legal advice, the judge will set a date for another hearing. It will follow much the same procedure as that for a first appearance.

Be sure that you arrange to see a lawyer as soon as possible. Do not leave it until the day before your next court date.

If you plead guilty and the judge sets a date for sentencing, the next court date will deal with sentencing.

If you plead not guilty, the next court hearing will likely be the trial or a preliminary hearing and that may be several months after the first court appearance. Again, you should be sure to get some legal advice before your trial or preliminary hearing.

Whatever the reason for the second court date, the judge will choose a date that is acceptable to you and the Crown Attorney and that fits in the court schedule. Be sure you know if there are dates when you are not available so that you can tell the judge. Write down the date and time that you will need to be in court again. If you are unsure you can phone the court office and ask the court clerk to check it for you.  You will find court contact information at www.courts.ns.ca, or look in the government pages of the telephone book under 'Courts'.

Who will be in court?

The judge

The judge decides, based on the evidence presented in court, whether the case has been proved against you beyond a reasonable doubt. If you are found guilty, the judge decides what sentence to give you. The judge sits at the front of the court room. He or she usually wears a black robe in court. In Provincial Court there are no juries.

Crown Attorney

The Crown Attorney is a lawyer who presents the case against you. He or she usually sits at a table at the front of the courtroom facing the judge. The Crown Attorney is also called "the prosecutor', or "the Crown", or "Crown Counsel". The Crown Attorney's job is to prepare the case against you and present the evidence to prove that you committed the offence. The Nova Scotia Public Prosecution Service prosecutes charges laid under the Criminal Code and Nova Scotia statutes like the Occupational Health and Safety Act. The Public Prosecution Service of Canada prosecutes criminal offences under federal jurisdiction, including cases involving drugs, organized crime, terrorism, tax law, money laundering and proceeds of crime.  Go to gov.ns.ca/pps for information about the Nova Scotia Public Prosecution Service, or ppsc-sppc.gc.ca   for information about the Public Prosecution Service of Canada.

Court Clerk

The court clerk sits at a table in front of the judge facing the public. He or she calls the court to order, receives physical evidence such as papers presented in court (these are called exhibits), calls and swears in witnesses, writes down any orders made by the judge, and ensures that what is said in court during a trial is recorded on audio tape.

The Accused or Defendant

The person who is charged with the offence is called the "accused" or "defendant". You have a right to be in court at any time when your case is being dealt with. When your case is called, you should walk to the front of the courtroom and identify yourself. During a trial you should sit near the front of the court so that you can hear everything that is going on.

Witnesses

Usually, during the first court appearance there are no witnesses. They will be needed later during the trial to give evidence of what they know about the case. Both you and the Crown Attorney may call witnesses and cross-examine each other's witnesses if you choose to.

If you call a witness who is then cross-examined by the Crown Attorney, you may ask the witness further questions based on his or her answers during cross-examination.  This is called redirect evidence.

Courtworkers

In larger centres there may be community groups who provide courtworkers to help individuals through the court process. They cannot give you legal advice.

They can help explain what will happen in court, provide support, and help you contact legal and community services. They will speak to anyone who may need help.

Public and Media

Courts are generally open to the public and the media. Anyone can come in and watch what is going on. There are seats towards the back of the courtroom for the public.

Will the media always be there?

Often there will be reporters from local newspapers. Other media usually only cover courts if there are serious cases or a well known person appearing in court.

Television and still/video cameras and other devices to record or transmit audio or video are allowed in the courthouse but they are not allowed in the courtroom unless the judge allows them.  The Courts' website has further information about the use of electronic devices in court.

What should I wear?

There is no special way of dressing but you do want to make a good impression on the judge, so be neat and tidy.

How should I behave?

 You should show respect for the court. Show the judge that you are taking the matter seriously. Do not smoke, eat, chew gum, or take drinks into the court.

Males are expected to remove their hat or cap. While you may want to bring a friend or relative with you for support, it is not a good idea to bring a crowd of people who joke around or are noisy or otherwise disrupt the court.

You should stand up when you speak to the judge or when the judge speaks to you.

Speak clearly and loud enough for the judge to hear you. In Provincial Court, when you speak to the judge, you call him or her "Your Honour". In Supreme Court you call the judge "My Lord" or "My Lady".

What happens at a trial

 In a criminal trial you are innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

The trial is the time when the Crown Attorney must present evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you committed the offence that you are charged with. If the Crown fails to do this, the judge must find you not guilty. Nova Scotia Legal Aid has a Trials fact sheet.

The basic steps in a criminal trial are:

1. The case is called by a court official. You should go to the front of the court. You will be allowed to sit at the front of the courtroom so that you can hear what is being said and see the witnesses.

2. The trial begins. The judge will ask you and the Crown Attorney if you are ready for the trial. If either of you is not ready, the judge will decide whether to continue or adjourn and set another date. There must be a good reason to ask for an adjournment. When you answer the judge you should address him or her as "Your Honour". When you have told the judge that you are ready you can sit down. The court clerk will show you where.

3. You or the Crown Attorney may ask the judge to make an exclusion order. This means that the judge excludes anyone who is to give evidence at the trial from the courtroom. You should tell your witnesses ahead of time that they will be asked to leave the courtroom when they are not actually testifying and make sure that they leave. However, although you may be a witness and give evidence at the trial, you have a right to remain in court for the whole trial.

4. The Crown Attorney presents the case against you. To prove the case against you, the Crown Attorney must present evidence that:

  • you are the person charged with the offence
  • you committed the offence
  • you intended to commit the offence.

The Crown Attorney will call witnesses. For example, if you are charged with shoplifting, the Crown would likely have as witnesses the store manager or security officer and the police officer who investigated the matter.

Each witness goes into the witness box, swears or affirms to tell the truth, and answers questions from the Crown Attorney. As the witness gives his or her answers, you should write down the main points and anything that you may want to question later.

Note any weak points, for example, where a witness contradicts him or herself or
another witness. When the Crown has finished with a witness, you will have a chance to ask your questions. This is called cross-examination.

Cross-examining the Crown's witnesses

Cross-examination is an opportunity for you to ask the witness questions based on his or her answers to the Crown, or to ask the witness about your version of events.

It is not the time to tell your side of the story. You will have a chance to do this after the Crown has called all its witnesses. If you will be telling a different version of events you will need to ask the witness(es) about your version so they can respond.

You do not have to cross-examine every witness. You should only cross-examine a witness if you feel that it will help your case; if the witness made conflicting answers or there are weak spots in his or her evidence. For example, if the witness cannot clearly recall an event, or if you believe the witness knows other facts important to your case, you may wish to cross-examine him or her.

When you cross-examine you should ask questions that show that the witness is unsure of the facts or that the evidence is weak. For example, at the time of the offence, it was dark and raining and the witness, who says he saw you commit the offence, was standing 180 metres away and wears glasses. You might want to ask questions about the weather conditions, lighting and the witness's ability to see clearly.

Do not lose your temper, or say that the witness is lying. Do not argue with the witness.  Make sure your cross-examination consists of questions directed toward the witness, instead of speeches directed at the judge.

Ask only questions that you feel will help your case. Do not ask questions that allow the witness to repeat something that he or she is sure of. Ask questions you already know the answers to. For example, if the witness claims to have seen something clearly at 10pm on August 19, all you want to point out is that it was dark at the time and there was no street light nearby.

When you are cross-examining you can use questions that suggest the answer that you want. For example you can say, "It was raining hard at 10pm on August 19, wasn't it?"

These are called leading questions.

Even if you do not cross-examine the witness, you can draw attention to contradictions and weaknesses in the evidence when you sum up at the end of the trial.

The Crown Attorney may also use written evidence such as a breathalyser test
certificate or drug analysis certificate or photographs or videos. Before your trial you should get legal advice on how to handle such evidence.

Making a motion for a directed verdict

When the Crown Attorney has presented the case against you, if you feel that he or she has failed to prove all the things that had to be proved, you can make a motion for a directed verdict. This means that you are asking the judge to dismiss the case, without hearing the defence evidence. You do this by standing up and saying to the judge:

"Reserving my right to call defence evidence, I wish to make a motion for a directed verdict." You should then tell the judge what you think has been missed from the Crown's case. For example, that none of the Crown's witnesses identified you in court as the person who was at the scene of the crime.
If the judge agrees with you, he or she will acquit you (that is find you not guilty) and dismiss the case. If the judge disagrees with you, he or she will refuse your motion and you may begin your defence.

5. You present your case (called your defence)

This is your opportunity to tell your side of the story.

Until now, the judge has only heard the Crown's side. You can call witnesses and, if you choose, give evidence yourself. Giving evidence means getting up on the witness stand and testifying under oath or affirmation.  The Crown Attorney may cross-examine your witnesses and may cross-examine you if you decide to give evidence.

You do not have to give evidence yourself. You have a right to remain silent. You should speak with a lawyer about what is best for your situation and how best to present your case.

If you call witnesses, you must not ask them leading questions. For example, you can ask "Were you with anyone on the evening of August 19? You cannot say "You were with me on the evening of August 19, weren't you?".

When you have finished asking a witness questions, the Crown Attorney may cross-examine the witness.

If you decide to give evidence yourself, you will usually do this after you call any witnesses. The Crown Attorney may cross-examine you and ask if you have a criminal record. If you do not give evidence the Crown Attorney cannot mention your criminal record unless you are found guilty of the offence. He or she can then mention it during the sentencing process.

Generally you cannot use written evidence. You must get legal advice on what written evidence might be allowed in your case. If you are using written evidence, you will need an original for the court and a copy for yourself and for the Crown Attorney.

After the Crown Attorney cross-examines your witness, you may put forward redirect evidence by asking the witness additional questions.  These questions, however, must be strictly limited to any issues which arose during cross-examination.  It is an opportunity for the witness to clarify or provide context to evidence he or she may have given while being questioned by the Crown.

6. Submissions

After all the evidence has been presented in court, both you and the Crown Attorney have an opportunity to sum up your case. If you presented evidence in your defence, you will make your submission first. If you did not present a defence, the Crown Attorney sums up first. Also, if you are not represented by a lawyer, the judge might ask the Crown to sum up first. You use the submission to sum up the points in your favour.

  • Keep it short;
  • Do not present any new evidence;
  • Tell the judge why your witnesses are believable; and,
  • Draw attention to weaknesses in the Crown's case and show that the Crown has not proved the case against you.

The Crown makes a submission to try to show the judge that the evidence proves that you are guilty.

The judge makes a decision as to whether the evidence against you is sufficient to prove that you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

The judge takes into account all the evidence presented in court by you and the Crown Attorney. Sometimes the judge will adjourn the court briefly to allow time to reach a decision.

If the judge finds you not guilty you are free to go. You have been acquitted.
If the judge finds you guilty, the next step is for the judge to sentence you.

7.  Sentencing

Before deciding on the sentence the judge will allow you and the Crown Attorney an opportunity to speak. This is called 'speaking to sentence'. It is an opportunity for you to tell the judge about yourself and any circumstances surrounding the offence. (For example, you were depressed because you had lost your job.) Be honest. The judge will have heard hundreds of stories and will not be impressed by insincere promises or excuses.
   
You or the Crown Attorney may ask the judge to order a pre-sentence report and set a date, usually six to eight weeks ahead, for a sentencing hearing. This allows time for the report to be prepared. The pre-sentence report is prepared by a probation officer and provides information about you, your family, education, work and community involvement and criminal record if you have one. The information for the report will come from you, people you suggest as references and police.

Click here for more information about sentencing.

Preparing for trial

Do not leave it until a day or two before the trial date to prepare. You should make notes of what happened as soon as possible after the event. It may be several months before the trial, and you may forget important facts if you don't write them down. Think about:

  • who you might call as a witness;
  • whether you will give evidence yourself;
  • what are the strong and weak points of your case;
  • how you can best present the evidence; and
  • what you will say when speaking to sentence, if you are convicted.

Sometimes people do not want to go to court to give evidence as a witness. If you have any doubt that a witness will show up at court, you should go to court one or two months before the trial date and ask for the witness to be subpoenaed (pronounced sub-PEEN-ed). A subpoena orders a witness to come to court on the date and at the time of trial. Many employers required that employees have a subpoena before they will let them have time off work to go to court.

You should try to get some legal advice about your case from a lawyer. Do not leave this until the last minute.

Full disclosure: what is it and why you need it



Full disclosure

The Crown Attorney must provide you with full disclosure of the case against you. Disclosure means that Crown must give you copies of all evidence relevant to the case including the Crown sheet, police reports, witness statements made to the police both written and verbal, and any other documents such as a breathalyser certificate.

You can find out from the court clerk the location of the Crown Attorney's office which will deal with your case. You can also get contact information for the Crown at novascotia.ca/pps/contact.asp (Nova Scotia) or ppsc-sppc.gc.ca (federal Crown), or in the government section of the telephone book under 'Public Prosecution' or 'Justice'.  Go to the Crown Attorney's office and tell them who you are and ask for 'disclosure'. This information can be picked up by you, or in some cases, it may be mailed to you. You will need to show identification. If you do not have a lawyer, you should also say that you are going to court without a lawyer.

If you do not have a copy of the information (the paper that says what you are charged with), you can get a copy from the court clerk.

It is extremely important that you get disclosure from the Crown, and review it with a lawyer if possible, before you enter your plea.

Be prepared

Prepare your cross examination questions

The disclosure will tell you the basic information that the Crown Attorney will use in court.

Think about the offence you are charged with:

  • who was there?
  • what could each person see or hear?
  • make a list of possible witnesses and write down what each saw or did. Do not forget to include police officers.
  • are there possible witnesses that were not interviewed by police?

Think about what each person could say about the offence and make notes. Now think about what questions you could ask to point out any weaknesses.

Prepare your defence witnesses

Talk to your witnesses, one at a time, about what happened and what you will ask them in court. They must be able to say in court and in their own words what happened, and what they themselves saw or heard, or did. This is their testimony and must not be rehearsed.

The judge will not allow witnesses to give hearsay evidence. This means a witness is not allowed to say what another person told the witness he or she saw, heard or did.

The witness should not say what he or she believed happened. He or she must have seen or heard what happened or what was said.

Make sure your witnesses know that they may be cross-examined by the Crown
Attorney.  Make sure they know about the witness exclusion order.

You should make a list of questions that you want to ask each witness.

Prepare your evidence

You must decide whether you are going to give evidence yourself. You should talk with a lawyer about this. Here are some points for and against giving evidence.

For:

  • It is the only opportunity you have to tell the judge your version of what happened;
  • You may be the only defence witness who was present when the incident occurred;
  • You may have seen something that no one else saw;
  • You may know facts that no one else knows about the offence;
  • You can explain why you said or did something;
  • You can explain why you could not have committed the offence; and,
  • You can provide the judge with an opportunity to assess whether you are a truthful, honest person.


Against:

  • You must give evidence under oath and the Crown Attorney may cross-examine you;
  • The Crown Attorney may point out weaknesses in your evidence;
  • If you have a criminal record, the Crown Attorney can ask you about it; and,
  • The Crown Attorney can ask you about other matters related to the case that you did not talk about in your testimony.

Prepare your submission

The Crown Attorney first presents the case against you, you then present your case.

Then you both have an opportunity to make a submission. The submission is a
summary of the important points of your case. It is a final opportunity for you to remind the judge of the weaknesses in the Crown Attorney's case and the strengths of your case. Write down the main points that you want to cover so that you do not forget anything.

Prepare to Speak to Sentence

If the judge finds you guilty, you will likely be sentenced immediately. Even if you feel certain that you will not be found guilty, you should be prepared to speak to sentence.

Click here for more information to help you prepare for sentencing.

Appeals



If you are found guilty there may be circumstances that allow you to appeal the verdict or the sentence. Usually, you must file the appeal within 30 days. You should talk to a lawyer before you decide whether to appeal. The Crown may also appeal the verdict or sentence.   Go to courts.ns.ca for the Criminal Appeal How-to Manualpeal How-to Manual to help you make an informed decision about appealing a criminal convction or sentence.

Finding a lawyer, more information and help

  • Legal Aid Duty Counsel: Nova Scotia Legal Aid has duty counsel in provincial court in some parts of the province. They can give you preliminary, free advice if you are in court without a lawyer. Call 902-420-7800 in the Halifax Regional Municipality or 902-539-7026 in the Sydney area;

  • Nova Scotia Legal Aid: If you cannot afford a lawyer, contact Nova Scotia Legal Aid to see if you qualify. Legal Aid is listed in the phone book under 'Legal Aid' (white pages and government section) or 'Nova Scotia Legal Aid' (white pages), or visit nslegalaid.ca for contact information or to apply for Nova Scotia Legal Aid online. Nova Scotia Legal Aid also has some criminal law legal information online at: www.nslegalaid.ca

  • Lawyers in private practice are listed in the Yellow pages of the phone book. You should look for a criminal law lawyer. A friend, family member or co-worker might also suggest a lawyer. If you have one, your union or workplace Employee Assistance Plan (EAP) may also offer some help with finding a lawyer;

  • You can call the LISNS Lawyer Referral Service where you may be referred to a lawyer who will give you an initial interview of up to 30 minutes for no more than $20 plus tax. Regular fees would generally be charged after the initial consultation, although some of the Lawyer Referral Service members may offer some flexibility in fee arrangements. To use LISNS Legal Information Line or the Lawyer Referral Service call 902-455-3135 in the Halifax area or 1-800-665-9779 toll free.

  • Court-Appointed Counsel Applications ("Rowbotham Applications"): If you have been denied Legal Aid and cannot afford a lawyer, there is another option.  You can apply to the Nova Scotia Provincial Court to ask for a lawyer who will be funded for you.
  • Courts of Nova Scotia - Provincial Court : general information.

  • Provincial Court forms and rules.

  • Victim Services of Nova Scotia:  Nova Scotia Department of Justice, Victim Services offers a range of services to help victims of crime in Nova Scotia.
  • Coverdale Courtwork Society: a non-profit community based organization that provides support to women and girls within the Halifax Regional Municipality who are experiencing the justice system.
  • John Howard Society of Nova Scotia:  a provincial organization comprised and governed by people whose goal is to understand and respond to problems of crime and the criminal justice system.
  • Mi'kmaq Legal Support Network: The Mi’kmaq Legal Support Network (MLSN) a justice support system for Aboriginal people who are involved in the criminal justice system in Nova Scotia.

  • Public Prosecution Service of Canada: federal government organization that prosecutes criminal offences under federal jurisdiction, including cases involving drugs, organized crime, terrorism, tax law, money laundering and proceeds of crime, crimes against humanity and war crimes, Criminal Code offences in the territories, and a large number of federal regulatory offences.
  • Public Prosecution Service of Nova Scotia: Nova Scotia Public Prosecution Service prosecutes charges laid under the Criminal Code and under Nova Scotia statutes such as the Occupational Health and Safety Act.


Last reviewed: February 2017

Jury Duty

For more information about jury duty go to the Courts of Nova Scotia website at courts.ns.ca/general/jury.htm

 

Q - Who can be a juror?

A - In Nova Scotia you are eligible for jury duty if you are a Canadian citizen and aged 18 or over. The Juries Act is the Nova Scotia law that sets the rules for who can be a juror.

However, some people are disqualified from serving as a juror, others can ask to be excused because of their particular circumstances. They are listed below, under Can I be excused from jury duty?.

Q -How are jurors chosen?

A - Nova Scotia is divided into 14 jury districts. Each district has a jury co-ordinator who is appointed by Nova Scotia’s Minister of Justice.

Once a year the jury co-ordinator draws up a jury list from names on Nova Scotia’s Health Registration list.  Names are randomly selected from the database. No health information is provided, just names and addresses.   The list is approved by a judge. Every year in Nova Scotia, approximately 25,000 names are picked.

There are several criminal and civil jury terms from September to June. There are usually no jury trials in July or August, but they can happen. Each jury term in Halifax and Sydney is about one month long and they run almost continuously from September through to June. In other areas of the province, the terms range from two to three weeks, and in some areas twice a year or four times a year. Usually, several trials are scheduled for each term. Most trials last from two to six days but some last longer.

When a criminal or civil jury term has been scheduled, the jury co-ordinator, in consultation with a judge, will make up a jury panel by picking names at random from the jury list.  The panel consists of hundreds of names depending on how many jurors are needed.

If your name is selected for the jury panel, you will get a Summons to Jury Duty (juror summons) in the mail at least 10 days ahead of time, telling you when and where you have to go to court.  You’ll find a sample jury summons on the Courts of Nova Scotia website: courts.ns.ca/general/jury.htm

The  Juror Summons will include a Juror Information Form that you must complete and send back right away to the court in the envelope provided.  The form will ask for telephone numbers where you can be reached. It will also ask for your occupation.

Once you get a Juror Summons, you should arrange your schedule so you will  be available during the jury term. The length of service depends on the jury term but can be up to a month or longer.  You must go to court on the day the first trial is scheduled to begin. If you are not picked as a member of the jury for the first trial, you will be excused and told to return to court on the first day of the second trial, and so on.  You are liable to serve on all the juries picked for the term but in practice you are likely to have to serve on only one or two.

If you get a Summons to Jury Duty and have questions after reading the information package, you should call the jury coordinator at the court. The number to call is on the Summons, or go to courts.ns.ca for court contact information.

 

Q - Why should I serve on a jury?

A - Jury duty is an important responsibility in our society and an important part of the Canadian justice system. It gives citizens an opportunity to be directly involved in the administration of justice. In a criminal trial, it gives an accused person the chance to be judged by a group of his or her peers. In a civil trial it provides a person who has made a claim against another a chance for his or her claim to be judged by other citizens.

Q - Can I serve on a jury if I am receiving Employment Insurance?

A - Serving on a jury will not affect your Employment Insurance (EI) benefits.  However, if you are on Employment Insurance and you receive a summons to jury duty you should contact the Jury Coordinator. The number to call is on the summons.

Q - Can I be excused from jury duty?

A -  Some people are automatically disqualified from serving as a juror, others can ask to be excused because of their particular circumstances.

People who are automatically excused from jury duty include (this is not a complete list):

  • the Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia
  • members of the Senate and House of Commons of Canada (Senators or MPs);
  • members of the Nova Scotia House of Assembly (MLAs); 
  • judges, justices of the peace;
  • lawyers, articling students and anyone who is attending or has attended law school;
  • a jury co-ordinator or other employees of the Department of Justice (federal or provincial), such as probation officers, sheriffs, and correctional officers;
  • court officers such as court clerks;
  • officers of the Canadian Armed Forces and members of the Armed Forces who are on active duty,  or persons who are active in the reserves;
  • police officers;
  • persons who have served two years or more in jail for a criminal offence.

If you are not a Canadian citizen or are under 18 you cannot serve as a juror.

As well, anyone may ask to be excused from jury duty if they have a good reason.  For example, you may ask to be exused if:

  • you are ill or have an acceptable medical reason;
  • serving on a jury would cause you financial hardship;
  • it would be a serious inconvenience for you.

A judge may excuse you at any time before the trial starts if:

  • you have a personal interest in the issue being tried;
  • you know or are related to someone involved with the case including the judge or lawyers;
  • you can show personal hardship or have some other reason which persuades the judge to excuse you.  For example, the trial is in French and you only speak and understand English, or vice versa.

In the case of a French or bilingual trial, a questionnaire is sent with the Juror Summons to determine your proficiency in French or, as the case may be, in both official languages.

You may be able to defer (put off) your jury duty if you are able to serve but have a good reason why it would be inconvenient to do so during the term for which you are called.

Q - How do I apply to be excused from jury duty?

A - If you believe you have a good reason to be excused from jury duty, you should fill out the “Application to be excused/deferred from Jury Duty”.  A copy of the form is provided with the Juror Summons, and a sample  is on the Courts of Nova Scotia website at courts.ns.ca/general/jury.htm.  Send your completed application to the jury coordinator.  The jury coordinator’s contact information is on your Juror Summons.

The jury coordinator may excuse a person from jury duty if it will cause hardship, or if the person is ill.  Unless the person is 70 years or older, a person seeking to be excused because of illness will need to provide a Medical Certificate signed by his or her doctor.

The jury coordinator can also defer (put off) a person's jury duty to a later jury session, if it would be very inconvenient to do jury duty at the assigned session.

If the jury coordinator refuses to excuse the person, the coordinator will send the application to a judge.  The judge may refuse to excuse the person, or may excuse them because of illness, hardship or inconvenience.

The person can also ask to be excused when he or she goes to court on the day set out in the Juror Summons.

After a trial has begun, the judge may excuse or discharge a juror at any time. For example, in a criminal trial, if a juror becomes ill during the trial, the judge may excuse the juror and allow the trial to go ahead, as long as there are at least 10 jurors left.

Q - What happens if I do not show up for jury duty?

A - If you do not show up for jury duty and you have not been excused beforehand, you may be arrested. You will be brought before the court to tell the judge why you did not show up. The judge may fine you up to $1,000. Click here to read more about failing to appear for jury duty.

If an emergency prevents you from showing up, you should contact the court as soon as possible. You will find the phone number for the court administration office and the jury coordinator on your Juror Summons, or look under ‘Courts’ in the government section of the telephone book, or online at courts.ns.ca

Q- Can my employer fire me for taking time off for jury duty?

A - When you have been called to jury duty, your employer must, by law (Nova Scotia Labour Standards Code), give you an unpaid leave of absence from work for as long as you are needed. This may be a few hours, a day, several days or months during the jury term. Your employer must keep your job open for you.

When you return to work, your employer is not allowed to demote you or to decrease your wages because you were required for jury duty. However, your employer does not have to pay you for the time you are away from work, unless it is a term of your employment contract, although many employers are willing to do so.  Speak with your employer.  If you are having difficulty getting the time off, contact Nova Scotia Labour Standards at 1 888 315-0110 or 902-424-4311.

Q - What kind of cases do juries hear?

A -Your Juror Summons  may or may not tell you if you are being called for a civil jury term or a criminal jury term, or both.

Most jury terms in Nova Scotia are for criminal cases. A criminal case is one in which the Crown is trying to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the person charged with the crime is guilty. The Crown represents the interests of the general public. Some examples of criminal trials which might have a jury are murder, attempted murder, serious assaults, and robbery.

In a civil trial, the jury has to settle a private dispute between two parties. Lawyers involved represent the interests of the private parties involved in the dispute.  The plaintiff must prove his or her case on the balance of probabilities. Some examples of civil trials which might have a jury are land disputes, personal injury claims, claims for defamation (libel, slander) and claims of false arrest.

Q - Will I be paid for jury duty?

A - If you are selected for jury duty you will receive $40 a day, plus a travel allowance of 20 cents per kilometre for each trip to the courtroom. Your parking will be paid only if you are selected as a juror. You have to provide your own meals. If you have to stay overnight in a hotel while the jury is in the process of reaching a verdict (decision), your meals and hotel room will be paid.

If you are not selected as a juror but traveled more than 100 kilometres from your home to the courthouse, you will be paid 20 cents per kilometre for your travel.

Q - How long should I expect to be in court each day?

A - Usually, courts sit from 9:30 am to 4:30 or 5 pm in the afternoon, with a morning break (called a recess), a lunch hour and an afternoon recess.

Jurors can go home every evening during the trial itself (when the evidence is being heard). Jurors are not allowed to go home during deliberations, that is, during the time they are deciding the verdict. In most cases, juries complete their deliberations within a single day. Usually, the only time you will have to stay away from home overnight is if you are deliberating beyond 6 pm in the evening, or thereabouts, without reaching a verdict. This does not happen very often, and when it does, it is usually for only one night.

Q - What should I wear to court? 

A -There is no special dress requirement for jurors, but you should wear something neat, clean, fairly conservative and comfortable.

It is a good idea to bring a book or something to help you pass the time because there may be some delays during the first day, before the trial begins. However, when you are in the courtroom, you must focus your attention entirely on what is being said and done.

Q - Who will be in court during the trial?

A - The following is a list of the people who will likely be in court, and a brief explanation of their roles:

  • the judge - has authority in the courtroom and directs the proceedings. If the accused is found guilty, the judge decides on the sentence
  • the sheriff or a deputy sheriff -  provides security in the courtroom
  • the court clerk or court reporter - organizes the selection of jurors from among the jury panel, keeps a record of exhibits at the trial and looks after other administrative matters. He or she also administers oaths, announces when court is in session and when it is recessed, and makes sure the recording equipment is working properly
  • counsel - lawyers are referred to as 'counsel' in the courtroom. In a criminal trial the counsel for the prosecution, representing the interests of the general public, is usually called the Crown Attorney. The counsel for the accused is called the defence counsel. In a civil case the person bringing the action is known as the plaintiff. The person the plaintiff is bringing action against is known as the defendant. Their lawyers are referred to as counsel for the plaintiff and counsel for the defendant.
  • the accused: the person charged with a criminal offence, that is the person on trial.
  • Witnesses will be called into the courtroom in turn to give evidence at trial. The courts are also open to the public and media who may watch the proceedings.

Q - How are jurors picked? 

A - Sometimes, the first day of the trial can be a frustrating day for members of the jury panel. The accused may change his or her plea to 'guilty' just when the trial is about to begin. If this happens, the jury panel may be sent home and told to return the following week, or they may be told to wait for another trial scheduled for later in the day.

If the trial goes ahead, the first task of the day will be for the Crown and defence counsel to select 12 jury members from the jury panel.

The jury panel will meet in the courtroom, the court reporter will call out everyone's name, and make a note of any member of the panel who is not there to answer.

The judge will ask if any members of the jury panel believe they should be excused from sitting on this particular case. Now is the time for you to speak up if you feel you have a reason to be excused, for example, you have a friend or relative who is involved in the case. You should also tell the judge if you have any sort of special interest in the case or a strong emotional response to the crime. For example, a close friend of yours may have been the victim of a similar crime, or the case may involve a crime against a child and you have a child the same age. The judge will decide whether to excuse you.

The names of potential jurors will then be picked at random from a box of cards containing the names of every member of the jury panel. If your name is picked, you will be asked to stand in the jury box so that you and the accused can see each other. The Crown Attorney and the defence counsel may ask you questions to help them decide whether to 'challenge' you.

"Challenges" and stand by

The Crown Attorney and the defence lawyer can each 'challenge' you or any other prospective juror, this means that they request that you not sit on the jury. There are two basic types of challenges: 'peremptory challenges' and 'challenges for cause.'

A peremptory challenge allows the Crown Attorney or the defence lawyer to challenge a juror without any reason or explanation.

They are each allowed:

  • 20 peremptory challenges where the accused is charged with first degree murder or high treason,
  • 12 peremptory challenges where the accused could be sentenced to prison for more than five years if convicted
  • 4 peremptory challenges where the accused is charged with any other offence.

A challenge for cause is when the Crown Attorney or the defence counsel believes after questioning you, that there are reasons that disqualify you from serving at that particular trial. There is no limit to the number of challenges for cause.

If you are challenged or excused, keep in mind that this is not a judgment on your ability or on your standing in the community. There may be 150 people or more on a jury panel. The lawyers, working from two opposing points of view, must narrow it down to the 12 they believe would be the best jurors for the particular case.

Stand by - the judge may order a member of the jury panel to 'stand by' if that person has asked to be excused for reasons of personal hardship or for some other reason.

If a full jury has not been selected after all the names on the jury panel have been called, persons on 'stand by' may be recalled.

They will be sworn in as jurors unless the judge excuses them or they are challenged by counsel.

Q - What happens if not enough jurors are selected from the panel?

A - It is possible that the lawyers may go through the entire jury panel and not find 12 people whom they both feel would make suitable jurors for the case. At this point, the judge may order the sheriff, or any other officer, to immediately summon as many people as necessary to complete the jury.

This does not happen very often, but when it does it can be dramatic. The sheriff may go out on the street, usually right in front of the courthouse, and order people who are walking by to report to the court for jury duty. If this should ever happen to you, you are legally required to do as the sheriff says.

Q - What happens once the jury is selected?

A - If you are selected as a jury member you will promise or swear on a Bible -  or in whatever way is appropriate to your religion - that you will faithfully execute the duties involved. If you do not have a religious belief, you can simply affirm that you will faithfully execute a juror's duties. All forms of oath and affirmation are equally valid.

Q - What is the jury's responsibility? 

A -At the beginning of the trial, the judge will explain the jury's duties and how the trial will be conducted. The jury's primary duty is to listen to all the evidence presented in court and to decide the facts of the case. This may not be easy because trials usually take place long after the event, and witnesses often have differing and conflicting memories of what happened.

Trials are not contests between lawyers; there are neither winning nor losing lawyers, only winning or losing clients. Each lawyer will try to present the facts of his or her client's case in the most favourable light. As a juror, your role is to decide what the facts are and whether the Crown or, in a civil trial, the plaintiff has proved its case. Do not be influenced by whether you like or dislike the lawyer, the accused or the plaintiff.

The jury's other duty is to apply the law to the facts of the case. The judge will explain the law to you. You will be told to approach the case with an open mind and without any idea as to whether the accused is guilty.
As the trial proceeds, it is important that jurors keep an open mind and listen to all the evidence, the arguments of both the Crown Attorney and the defence counsel and the judge's instructions.

Jurors must not leave the courtroom while the trial is in progress. If you need to leave the courtroom for any reason other than during the usual breaks, you should pass a note to the deputy sheriff who will be nearby and who will, in turn, pass it to the judge. The judge will likely call an adjournment and the whole jury will retire to the jury room.

Q - What happens at a criminal trial?

A - The Crown Attorney will begin by saying what the accused is charged with, what the Crown intends to prove, and how the Crown will present the proof. These opening statements are not part of the evidence. The entire court proceeding and all the evidence is tape recorded so that it can be played back if necessary.

The Crown Attorney will then present the case for the Crown in the form of evidence. This may include documentary evidence (such as photos, autopsy reports or sworn statements) and the spoken testimony of witnesses. The Crown Attorney will question the witness. This is called 'direct examination' or 'examination in chief'.

Next, the counsel for the defence will have a chance to 'cross-examine' the witness. The defence counsel can ask questions about points that were raised in the direct examination.  The defence counsel does not have to cross-examine every witness, and will usually only do so if it will help the accused’s case.
After the Crown Attorney has presented his or her case, the lawyer for the defence can also present evidence and call witnesses. The defence counsel will conduct the direct examination and the Crown Attorney may cross-examine the witnesses.

The defence does not have to present evidence. The accused does not have to give evidence.  

Admissible evidence

The laws of evidence are designed to make sure that the jury's decision is based only on evidence that is legally admissible. Therefore, when one counsel is questioning a witness, the other counsel may object to the questions being asked or the answers being given. The judge will either overrule the objection (that is, reject the objection) or sustain it (that is, agree with the objection). If the objection is sustained, the judge will tell the jury to ignore the answer given by the witness or may instruct the witness not to answer the question.

Some objections cannot be dealt with right away. Counsel may have arguments as to why the evidence should, or should not, be admissible. In such situations the judge may call for a 'voir dire' (pronounced vwa dear) to listen to counsels' arguments. The jury will have to leave the courtroom during the voir dire. The judge will decide if the evidence is admissible and will then recall the jury.

After all the evidence, the Crown Attorney and the defence lawyer will each sum up his or her case for the jury. These closing statements (sometimes called summations) can help jurors understand the evidence and the issues. However, they are not part of the evidence.

Q - What is the judge's charge to the jury?

A - After counsels' closing statements, the judge will instruct the jury. This is called the charge to the jury. The judge will usually summarize the evidence and outline the law, which applies to the case. Often, the judge will point out the facts of which the jury must feel convinced of before they can return with a verdict of guilty.

The standard of proof in a criminal trial is 'proof beyond a reasonable doubt'. This means that based on the evidence presented, the jury must have no reasonable doubt that the accused committed the offence he or she is charged with. The judge will explain this to you in detail.

Q - How does a jury reach a verdict?

A - After the judge's charge to the jury, the jury will go to the jury room to decide upon a verdict. The jury is expected to:

  • discuss all the evidence and assess its value and importance
  • decide the facts of the case
  • apply the law as instructed by the judge, and
  • reach a verdict.

The jury will choose one juror to act as a spokesperson and to lead the proceedings in the jury room. This person is called the jury foreperson.

In most cases you will be going from memory, although some judges encourage jurors to take notes. A sheriff will be available to the jury in case they want to refresh their memory about a piece of evidence. The sheriff will take the jury's request to the judge. The judge will have the tape of the particular segment of the trial replayed to you in open court. The jury can also ask the sheriff to relay any questions to the judge. From the time the jury leaves the courtroom to the time it reaches its verdict, jury members must not speak with anyone other than each other and the sheriff.  Failure to observe these rules could result in a mistrial.

Q - Do all the jury members have to agree on the verdict?

A - In a criminal trial the jury verdict must be unanimous, that is all 12 jurors must agree.  Jury members must decide for themselves, without direction from the judge, the lawyers, or anyone else, how they will proceed in the jury room to reach a verdict.

If the jury members cannot reach an agreement on the verdict within a reasonable period of time, the judge will declare a mistrial and discharge the jury.  It is up to the Crown to decide whether to apply for a new trial. A jury that cannot agree on a verdict is called a 'hung' jury.

If the jury reaches a unanimous decision, everyone will go back into the courtroom and the jury foreperson will announce the verdict. The court clerk may ask each member of the jury to confirm that he or she agrees. The judge will thank the jury and discharge them. If the verdict is not guilty, the judge will acquit the accused.  If the verdict is guilty, the judge will sentence the accused either then or at a later date.

In Canada, the deliberations of the jury are conducted in secrecy and you must not talk about what went on in the jury room. If you do, you could be charged with a criminal offence

Q - How is a jury selected in a civil trial?

A -  The civil jury is selected in much the same way as a jury for a criminal trial, except that the process is less formal and is completed more quickly.

A civil jury has seven members.  Their names are chosen at random from among the jury panel. Counsels for the plaintiff and defendant may each peremptorily challenge four jurors.  A peremptory challenge allows the lawyer to challenge a juror without any reason or explanation. If there are several plaintiffs and defendants with different interests, the judge may allow each group that has a common interest to peremptorily challenge four jurors.

Q - What happens in a civil trial?

A - The process is similar to that of a criminal trial, but there are some differences:

  • In a civil trial you must resolve a private dispute between two parties.
  • In a civil trial there are seven jurors, not 12.
  • The plaintiff must prove that the defendant is liable on a balance of probabilities, otherwise the plaintiff's case must be dismissed. This is a lower standard of proof than in a criminal trial. It means that if the jury believes there is greater than 50 percent chance that the defendant is liable, the jury will find him 100 percent liable.
  • A civil jury may be asked to return a verdict in different ways. The jury may be asked to:
    • answer a question or simply to find in favour of one of the parties,  or
    • assess damages or decide the amount of compensation which is due to one of the parties.
  • In a civil case, if the jury reaches a decision within the first four hours of deliberation it must be unanimous. If deliberations go beyond four hours, only a majority (five out of seven) verdict is necessary.

This page was developed with the support of a financial contribution from the Department of Justice Canada.

July 2013

Peace Bonds

This page gives general information about Peace Bonds. It does not give legal advice.

Applying for a Peace Bond:

To start the process you or your lawyer file a paper called an "Information" with the Provincial Court. Go to www.courts.ns.ca, and click on 'HOW TO APPLY FOR A PEACE BOND" at the bottom of the Provincial Court page for details on how to apply.


What is a peace bond?

A peace bond is a court order in which a person who has threatened or harmed you or your property, or who has attempted to threaten or harm you,  agrees to stop the threatening or harmful behaviour and to stay away from you. This person is called the defendant. By signing the peace bond the defendant agrees to keep the peace and be of good behaviour. The peace bond may include other conditions such as the defendant agreeing to have no direct or indirect contact with you.

Does a peace bond stop a person from contacting me?

A peace bond may contain a condition that the defendant have no direct or indirect contact with you. It is the defendant's responsibility not to contact you directly or indirectly.

Direct contact occurs if the defendant speaks to you in person or on the phone, writes to you, leaves a telephone, voice mail or email message, or comes into your presence.

Indirect contact occurs when the defendant communicates, or tries to communicate, a message to you through another person or by leaving something for you where the defendant knows you will find it.

A peace bond does not prevent you from voluntarily contacting the defendant, but if you do, you may find it more difficult to enforce the peace bond later.

What does a peace bond do?

A peace bond attempts to protect you by directing the defendant not to make further threats or cause further harm to you. It warns the defendant that, if the threatening behaviour continues, he or she risks getting a fine, a jail term or other sentence and a criminal record.

What can I do in an emergency?

You can call 911. In some cases you can apply for an emergency protection order over the phone. For more information go the page on Emergency Protection Orders.

Does a peace bond give the defendant a criminal record?

No. A peace bond is not a criminal conviction. The defendant will not get a criminal record by signing the peace bond. However, if the defendant breaks any of the conditions on the bond, he or she may be charged with a criminal offence. If convicted of the offence, the defendant may get a criminal record.

Do I have to lay criminal charges before I can get a peace bond?

No. You are not charging the defendant with an offence when you ask the court for a peace bond. You are asking the court to set out conditions intended to protect you from the defendant.

You have to show the judge that you have a reasonable fear because the defendant:

  • threatened or assaulted you or your family, or
  • threatened or damaged your property, and
  • you continue to fear for your safety. If you have no continuing fear of the defendant, it is unlikely that a court will give you a peace bond.

The Criminal Code allows you, or someone on your behalf, to apply for a peace bond or 'lay an Information'. However, the police will not apply for a peace bond for you. The police can investigate criminal charges and may lay charges if you have been physically assaulted or threatened or had your property damaged.

If criminal charges are laid do I still need a peace bond?

Probably not. In most cases, the defendant is released until trial only if he or she promises to have no contact with you directly or indirectly. You should contact the Crown Attorney's office that is dealing with the charge or the Victims' Services Office as soon as possible, to ensure that the defendant is ordered to have no contact with you.

If the defendant pleads guilty or is convicted of the charge, he or she may be placed on probation and ordered to have no contact with you as part of the probation order. This would have the same effect as a peace bond. If you want other conditions to apply, you can ask the Crown Attorney to ask for them to be included in the probation order.

If the defendant has been charged with assault and acquitted, can I still get a peace bond?

 Yes. If the defendant has been acquitted or had the charges dismissed, you can still apply for a peace bond. You will have to show the judge that you have a reasonable fear of the defendant.

Do I need a lawyer to get a peace bond?

You are not required by law to have a lawyer represent you at a peace bond hearing. However, it is a good idea to talk over the situation with a lawyer before you decide what to do. The lawyer can advise you of your rights and explain the court process. Together you can decide if you should hire the lawyer to go to court with you.

Also, you may not feel comfortable speaking in court and questioning witnesses. A lawyer is trained to do this.

Usually Legal Aid will not provide lawyers for peace bond applications. However, if you qualify for Legal Aid and have other issues they are dealing with, you may be able to get some advice from them. In some areas, there are programs that may help you apply for a peace bond. Court staff will usually know if these exist in your community.

Where do I get a peace bond?


Only a judge can give you a peace bond. You must go to the Provincial Court or Summary Offence Court. If you have an existing legal proceeding in Family Court or the Supreme Court (Family Division), you may apply for a peace bond in that court.

Before you can get a peace bond, there is a court hearing. You must be prepared to face the defendant in court and say why you are afraid of him or her. If you are concerned about your safety in court or while waiting for court, contact the court administration office.

How do I apply for a peace bond?

 To start the process you or your lawyer file an paper called an "Information" with the Provincial Court. This will start the process. The Nova Scotia Department of Justice has online information on how to apply for a peace bond - go to www.courts.ns.ca, and click on 'HOW TO APPLY FOR A PEACE BOND" at the bottom of the Provincial Court page.

What conditions go into a peace bond?

 By signing a peace bond, the defendant promises to leave you alone, keep the peace and be of good behaviour for the time set out in the peace bond. A peace bond may last up to one year. The judge decides how long it will last.

Before issuing the peace bond, the judge must decide whether to include conditions that will offer you further protection. These could include ordering the defendant:

  • to stay away from specific places where you, your spouse or your child regularly go, such as your work, home or school;
  • not to communicate with you, your spouse or your child. This includes by phone, by mail, in person, or through another person;
  • to post an amount of money and obtain a surety. A surety is a person who vouches for the defendant and agrees to supervise him or her to make sure the conditions are obeyed; and

Other conditions you think are required to ensure your safety. For example, the judge may order that the defendant have no contact with you other than to arrange access to, or exercise access to, the children, or that the defendant not possess firearms, ammunition or explosives, or other weapons.

You or your lawyer may ask for additional conditions to the peace bond. If you do not have a lawyer, do not be afraid to ask the judge for additional conditions.

Will I get a copy of the peace bond?

Yes. You should get a certified copy of the bond from the court staff. A certified copy says that it is a true copy of the original peace bond. You can get a copy from the court office as soon as the defendant signs the bond. If you do not feel safe waiting after court, you can pick up a copy at another time.

You should keep the peace bond in a safe place. It gives the police the proof they need to lay charges if the conditions are broken. You should show the police your copy if the defendant breaks the conditions of the peace bond. You may want to carry a copy of the peace bond with you. If you lose your copy, you can get another one at the court where it was issued.

What happens if the defendant breaks the peace bond

If the defendant breaks any of the conditions of the peace bond, you can call the police and report it. The police can charge the defendant with a criminal offence for violating the conditions of the peace bond. If the defendant is found guilty, he or she may be fined or given a jail term or both. The defendant may also be charged with any other offence (for example, assault) he or she committed when the peace bond was broken. The defendant can be charged with breaking the conditions of the peace bond even if he or she was not violent or threatening on that occasion.

It is up to you to report to the police if the peace bond is broken. Even if you decide not to call the police, you should record the day and time that the defendant broke the peace bond and what he or she did because if you later decide to call the police or have to go to court you will need this information.

The peace bond is for your protection. If you ask for a 'no contact' provision in the peace bond and you later willingly contact the defendant, you may have difficulty getting the police to charge the defendant if he or she later breaks the peace bond by contacting you.

Will the police always lay charges if a peace bond is broken?

The police can lay charges if there is evidence of a breach of the conditions of the bond. In family violence cases, the Nova Scotia Department of Justice has guidelines that encourage police, Crown Attorneys working within the justice system to arrest, charge and prosecute the defendant when there is evidence to do so. This includes directions to the police to:

  •  arrest defendants where there is evidence that they have broken a peace bond;
  • lay a charge when there are reasonable grounds or arrest someone for breaking a peace bond;
  • take into consideration the importance of the victim's safety and that of the children and provide transport to a safe place if necessary; and
  • keep the victim informed of the progress of the case.

Charges laid by the police will usually be heard in Provincial Court. If the police do lay a charge, you will be asked to give information on the details of the breach. It is then up to the Crown Attorney to deal with the case against the defendant in court

If the police do not lay charges and you think they should, you should contact police officials in your area to discuss why they are not taking action, or you can take the matter to court yourself.

What happens at a hearing for breaking a peace bond

It may take two to three weeks from the time you report a breach of a bond until the police serve a summons on the defendant. The summons tells the defendant what the charges are and the court date for the hearing.

Court staff are required to give priority to spousal/partner violence matters.
If the police do not lay charges, you may lay private charges. If you do, you or your lawyer will have to present the evidence of the breach of the peace bond in court. You will have to give evidence. If possible, have witnesses come to court to back up your evidence. The defendant can also have witnesses come to court.

If the defendant has witnesses, you or your lawyer may ask them questions.

What happens if the defendant is found guilty of breaking the peace bond?

Being found guilty of breaking a peace bond is a serious matter. The defendant may get a criminal record and, depending on the seriousness of the breach, could get up to two years in jail. It is rare for a defendant to get the maximum sentence. A common sentence for a first offence is release on probation with conditions such as staying away from you and your family.

If the defendant breaks the peace bond by following you around (called stalking) so that you fear for your safety or that of your family, the judge will consider the stalking as an aggravating factor (a factor that makes things worse) when sentencing the defendant.

What if I have a peace bond against my spouse and we get back together?

If you have a peace bond against your spouse and you decide to try living together again, it is a breach of the 'no contact' condition in the peace bond.

You or the defendant may go back to the court that issued the peace bond and ask to have the 'no contact' condition amended or deleted. The other conditions of the peace bond, such as the requirement that the defendant keep the peace and be of good behaviour, may remain in place. However, you should be aware that, depending on the circumstances, a judge may be reluctant to enforce the terms of the peace bond if you get back together with your partner.

If the defendant becomes violent and the peace bond is still in effect, you can go back to court and ask for the 'no contact' clause to be reinstated.

Can my spouse still see the children if I have a peace bond against my spouse

 If you have a peace bond against your spouse, it should not affect his or her parenting time with the children, unless the peace bond forbids contact with them. If you have legal custody of the children and the defendant has legal parenting time to them (such as in a court order or written separation agreement), you should point this out to the judge at the peace bond hearing. The judge can take the parenting arrangements into account when setting the conditions for the bond.

The judge may still order the defendant to have no contact with you even if he or she has a parenting arrangement in place to spend time with the children. The peace bond might provide that parenting arrangements be made through a third person, such as a neighbour, friend or family member you trust. (You should ask this person's permission and be sure that he or she will agree to assist you.) The judge could order that the defendant contact you only by phone or email and only to arrange time with the children. The judge could also order that the defendant remain in his or her car when picking up or dropping off the children and that you send them out to the car either on their own or with someone. The judge could also order that the children be picked up or dropped off only in a certain public place. If the defendant has access to your children but you do not feel safe having any contact with the defendant, you should explain this to the judge and tell why you feel this way.

If you already have a peace bond and you and your spouse are going to court to decide on custody or access, you should tell your lawyer or the judge about the peace bond.

Will a peace bond keep me safe?

A peace bond can be a good deterrent in many cases. It can help prevent threats and assaults. Going to court and signing the bond before a judge may be enough to persuade the defendant to keep away from you. However, not all defendants respect the terms of a peace bond and you still need to be careful for your safety.

A peace bond may not always be the best solution to your problem. For example:

1. The threat of getting a criminal record may not be enough to stop the defendant from assaulting you. The bond is most effective against a person who has a basic respect for the law.

2. It can take weeks or even months to get a peace bond and even longer to get the defendant convicted if he or she breaks the bond. This is not much help if you are threatened with immediate physical violence. Then it may be best to contact the police to lay an assault charge against the defendant.

3. A defendant will not be charged for breach of a peace bond unless the police feel that there are reasonable grounds to believe the bond was broken. You can take the matter to court yourself if the police do not lay charges, but you would have to present the case yourself or hire a lawyer to do it for you.

4. Even if the defendant serves a sentence for a breach of the peace bond, he or she might continue the threatening or violent behaviour until you are forced to go through the whole process again.

5. Peace bonds are not permanent. They last for a maximum period of one year. If you want to get another peace bond after the first one ends, you must make a new application.

6. If you have been assaulted, a peace bond is not always the best way to deal with the situation. You can instead contact the police to lay an assault charge against the person who hurt you, your child or property.

7. There are 'anti-stalking' laws that may help protect you if you fear for your safety because someone is repeatedly:

  •  following you around,
  • calling you, your family, friends or workplace,
  • watching your home or workplace, and
  • doing anything which threatens you or your family.

If this is happening to you, you should talk with the police. Anti-stalking laws are also called 'criminal harassment' laws.

There may be services in your community to help you develop a safety plan if you are threatened. A safety plan helps you to consider ways to protect yourself and your children. The police or Victim Services Division of the provincial Department of Justice can advise if such services are available in your community.

For more information

Victim Resources
Depending on your situation and on where you live in the province, there may be agencies that can help you such as:

Victim Services Division,
Nova Scotia Department of Justice
Halifax Region - 902-424.3307
Kentville 902-679.6201 or 1.800.565.1805 toll free
New Glasgow 902-755.7110 or 1.800.565.7912 toll free
Sydney 902-563.3655 or 1.800.565.0071 toll free

Go to novascotia.ca/just/victim_Services/ for more information about the Department of Justice Victim Services.

The Regional Victim Services Program provides information, support and advocacy for victims of crime within the criminal justice system. Services include the provision of information to victims on their particular case and on the criminal justice process; liaison with police, Crown Attorney, and other justice agencies as the case proceeds through the system; court preparation; and assistance with criminal injuries compensation and victim impact statements.

The program also provides a comprehensive service to address the special needs of child victims or witnesses as they prepare to testify in court.

Last reviewed: February 2017

Plaintes contre la Gendarmerie royale du Canada

Cette page donne de l’information seulement, pas des conseils juridiques. Si vous avez un problème juridique ou si vous avez besoin de conseils juridiques, vous devriez communiquer avec un avocat.

Cette page explique comment déposer une plainte contre la Gendarmerie royale du Canada (GRC).

Qui peut déposer une plainte?

Quiconque, même les non citoyens, est préoccupé par le comportement d’un membre de la GRC en service peut porter plainte.

Comment déposer une plainte contre la GRC?

Les plaintes doivent être déposées à la Commission civile d’examen et de traitement des plaintes relatives à la GRC (la Commission) ou à un détachement de la GRC. La Commission est un organisme fédéral indépendant qui traite les plaintes contre la GRC. Elle ne fait pas partie de la GRC, et elle est neutre. La Commission travaille en français et en anglais. Elle offre également des services d’interprétation pour d’autres langues. Cliquez ici pour voir une brochure d'information.

Vous pouvez déposer une plainte par téléphone, par télécopieur, par courrier ou en ligne.

Par téléphone—en composant le numéro sans frais de la Commission : 1 800 665 6878, ou le numéro sans frais ATS : 1 866 432 5837. Les bureaux de la Commission sont ouverts du lundi au vendredi.

En ligne—sur le site Web de la Commission, en utilisant ce formulaire.

Par télécopieur ou par courrier—en utilisant le formulaire qu’on trouve sur le site Web de la Commission et en l’envoyant par télécopieur, au numéro 604 501 4095, ou par courrier, à l’adresse suivante :
Commission civile d’examen et de traitement des plaintes relatives à la GRC
Bureau national de réception des plaintes
C.P. 88689, Surrey (Colombie Britannique)  V3W 0X1

Déposez votre plainte le plus tôt possible après l’incident, alors qu’il est encore frais dans votre mémoire et que la preuve est encore disponible. Selon la loi, la plainte doit être déposée dans l’année qui suit l’incident. La Commission peut prolonger ce délai dans certaines circonstances, s’il y a de bonnes raisons de le faire.

Dans la plupart des cas, la Commission envoie une plainte à la GRC pour que celle ci enquête. Dans certains cas, la Commission peut enquêter sur la plainte elle même. La GRC enquête sur votre plainte puis vous envoie un rapport écrit. Si vous êtes satisfait du rapport, c’est la fin du processus de plainte.

Qu’arrive-t-il si vous n’êtes pas satisfait du rapport de la GRC sur votre plainte?

Vous pouvez demander à la Commission d’examiner votre plainte dans les 60 jours suivant la réception du rapport de la GRC. La Commission peut prolonger ce délai s’il y a de bonnes raisons de le faire. La Commission examinera le rapport de la GRC. Pour ce faire, elle obtiendra de la GRC toute la documentation pertinente requise pour examiner la plainte.

Pour effectuer cet examen, le président de la Commission peut :

  • examiner la plainte sans effectuer d’enquête;
  • demander à la GRC d’enquêter de façon plus approfondie;
  • faire sa propre enquête;
  • tenir une audience publique.

Si la Commission est satisfaite du rapport de la GRC, elle vous envoie un rapport final accompagné de ses raisons. Elle envoie aussi son rapport au ministre de Sécurité publique Canada (le ministre), au commissaire de la GRC et à l’agent visé par votre plainte. C’est la fin du processus.

Si la Commission n’est pas satisfaite du rapport de la GRC, le président envoie un rapport provisoire au commissaire de la GRC et au ministre. Le commissaire de la GRC doit répondre à ce rapport en expliquant les mesures que la GRC prendra, s’il y a lieu. Le président envoie ensuite un rapport final à vous, au ministre, au commissaire de la GRC et à l’agent visé par votre plainte.

Juin 2016

Preparing for your first criminal court appearance

This page gives legal information only, not legal advice. If you are charged with a criminal offence you should get legal advice as soon as possible. This page gives general information on how you can get legal advice before your first court appearance. 

I’ve been given a notice to appear in court, do I need to talk to a lawyer?

Yes. If you don’t talk with a lawyer before you go to court, or you don’t have a date scheduled to meet with a lawyer, or you don’t go to court with a lawyer, you are missing an important opportunity to give the judge a favourable impression.

At your first court appearance you want the judge to be left with the opinion that you are taking the matter seriously and have done your part to properly prepare for court.

Do not leave it until the day of or a day or two before your court date to try to find a lawyer. Getting advice can help you prepare for going to court, help you understand what will happen, and help you make decisions about your case.

What happens if I don’t contact a lawyer?

If you go ahead without getting advice, you may make decisions or represent yourself in a way which harms your case or puts you at a disadvantage. If you decide you want to speak with a lawyer once you are in court, you will have to persuade the judge to adjourn (that is, delay) the hearing to a later date to allow you time to speak with a lawyer. The judge will want to know why you didn’t get legal advice ahead of time.

Do I need to talk with a lawyer if I intend to plead guilty?

It is wise to get legal advice, even if you plan to plead guilty. Before you plead guilty you should be sure that you understand the consequences. Do not plead guilty just because you "want to get it over with". Depending on the offence, conviction may result in a prison term. You may get a criminal record which can affect your employment opportunities and your ability to travel outside Canada.

This page was produced thanks to the generous support of the Nova Scotia Legal Aid Commission

 

Representing Yourself in Criminal Court

Do I need a lawyer if I am charged with a criminal offence?

A - It is wise to get legal advice and to have a lawyer represent you in court. Lawyers know the law and legal procedures. They are used to presenting cases and speaking in court. They know what types of questions to ask and how to prepare evidence. However, if you are unable or do not wish to hire a lawyer, you can represent yourself in court. But you should first get some legal advice.  Look at the 'I need legal help' page for information on finding a lawyer.

Do I have a right to a lawyer?

A - While you have a right to get advice from a lawyer, you do not have a right to a government- funded lawyer if you cannot afford to pay for one. Depending on your financial situation and the seriousness of the offence, you may qualify for Legal Aid. Legal Aid offices are listed in the phone book under 'Nova Scotia Legal Aid' or 'Legal Aid', or visit www.nslegalaid.ca. As well, Nova Scotia Legal Aid has duty counsel in some provincial courts. They can give you free preliminary advice and assistance if you are in court without a lawyer. To contact duty counsel call 420.7800 in Halifax and Dartmouth, or 539.7026 in Sydney.

Look at the 'I need legal help' page for information on finding a lawyer in private practice (a lawyer you would pay).

If you are arrested by the police, they must tell you that you have a right to speak with a lawyer.  Always use your right to speak with a lawyer.  Legal Aid Duty Counsel is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for people who have been arrested or detained by the police. It is free to talk with Legal Aid Duty Counsel. However, if you have a particular private lawyer that you would like to contact, you are entitled to request a lawyer by name.

The police must also tell you that you have a right to remain silent and that anything you do say may be used as evidence against you. You should talk with a lawyer before you say anything to the police.

How will I know what offence I am charged with?

A - There are offences under federal laws such as the Criminal Code of Canada. These are called criminal offences. There are offences under provincial laws such as the Motor Vehicle Act. These are not criminal offences, but can still have serious consequences.

 

No matter what type of offence you are charged with, you will receive a written notice describing the offence, the date of the offence and the law you have allegedly broken. For example, if you are charged with shoplifting, the notice may say “theft under $5,000 contrary to section 334(b) of the Criminal Code of Canada.”

 

The notice may be in the form of a:

The notice will also give the date and time that you have to go to court to answer the charge. If you are not sure what you have been charged with, you should talk with a lawyer.

Are all offences treated the same?

A - No. There are two procedures for dealing with a criminal offence depending on how serious it is.

a) Indictable offences (pronounced in-dite-able) are the most serious. Murder; aggravated sexual assault; robbery; break and enter; and theft over $5,000 are examples.

b) Summary offences are less serious. Unless otherwise noted, they carry a maximum penalty of a fine of $2,000 or six months in prison or both. Impersonating a police officer, or taking a car or boat and driving it without the owner's consent (sometimes called 'joyriding') are two examples.

Sometimes, the Crown Attorney — the lawyer who presents the case against you — can decide whether the offence will be treated as summary or indictable. These are called hybrid offences. Examples are; theft under $5,000 and impaired driving. The Crown Attorney decides which procedure to use and tells the judge on the first date that you are in court.

The police can assume that a hybrid offence will be treated as indictable. This allows them to demand that the accused provide photographs and fingerprints before a trial.

All offences under provincial laws such as the Motor Vehicle Act and the Liquor Control Act are dealt with by summary procedure.

When do I have to go to court?

A - The written notice that tells you what you have been charged with will also give you the date you first have to go to court.

You must go to court on the date and at the time indicated. If you do not turn up, the judge may issue a warrant for your arrest. A warrant is an order of the court that allows the police to arrest you and hold you in custody until they can bring you before a judge.

If you have a good reason for not being in court, you should call the court office and let them know. You may also ask a friend or relative to go to court and explain why you are not there. A good reason might be if you are ill. You will need to provide the court with written notice from your doctor that you are too ill to attend court. Failing to show up because you are on holiday or do not want to take time off work are not usually good reasons.

You may want to visit the court before your court date so you can watch what happens. You will see where everyone sits, and what they do and how the court operates. This may help you to be more relaxed and less nervous when your court date comes up.

On the day you have to go to court, you should arrive 10 or 15 minutes early. If there is more than one courtroom, you can ask at the information desk which court you should be in. You can go into the courtroom and sit in the seats for the public, which are towards the back of the courtroom.

How many times do I have to go to court?

A - In many cases, if you plead “guilty”, there is only one court appearance. In most cases where you plead “not guilty” there are at least two court appearances.

The number of court dates may increase:

  • If you or the Crown Attorney ask for adjournments (delays). For example, you might ask for an adjournment to give you time to get legal advice, or because a witness is ill.
  • If you plead “not guilty”, the judge will set a date for trial.
  • If you are found guilty at your trial, the judge may want time to consider what sentence to give you and set a date for sentencing.

Do I have a right to a trial in my own language?

A - You have a right to a trial in English or French. If you do not have a lawyer, the judge must tell you of this right. If you do not understand English or French, the judge may allow you to have the assistance of an interpreter. If you are hearing impaired, you may request the aid of a sign language interpreter. Tell the judge that you need help or have a friend explain for you.

Do I have a right to a trial within a certain time?

A - The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms says that persons accused of a crime have a right to be tried within a reasonable time. It does not say what “within a reasonable time” means. Courts have provided some guidance. There are four factors that a judge will consider when deciding if the trial is within a reasonable time

  • the length of the delay. For example, a complicated fraud or drugs case may take longer to come to trial than an assault case.
  • the reason for the delay. For example, the delay may be caused by the illness of an important witness
  • whether the accused has waived his or her right. For example, the accused agreed to a delayed date for the trial.
  • prejudice to the accused caused by the delay. For example, did the delay affect the accused's ability to put forward a full defence.

If you think that there has been an unreasonable delay, you should get legal advice on your situation.

What should I wear to court?

A - There is no special way of dressing, but you do want to make a good impression on the judge so be neat and tidy.

How should I behave in court?

A - You should show respect for the court. Show the judge that you are taking the matter seriously. Do not smoke, eat, chew gum, or drink in court. Males are expected to remove their hat or cap. While you may want to bring a friend or relative with you for support, it is not a good idea to bring a crowd of people who joke around, are noisy or otherwise disrupt the court.

You should stand up when you speak to the judge or when the judge speaks to you. Speak clearly and loud enough for the judge to hear you. In Provincial Court, when you speak to the judge, use the title “Your Honour.” In Supreme Court you address the judge as “My Lord” or “My Lady”.

What happens at the first court appearance?

This is often called the arraignment date. The first appearance usually lasts no more than five to 10 minutes. There will be a number of cases being dealt with by the court on the same day. Listen carefully so that you can hear when the court clerk calls your case.

Cases where the accused has a lawyer are usually called first. The remaining matters are then called in alphabetical order.

When the court clerk reads out your name, you should walk to the front of the court where the judge can see you. The court clerk will read the information, which contains the charge against you.

The judge will ask you if you understand the charge. Tell the judge if you do not understand so it can be explained to you. If you do understand, say so.

Once you have told the judge that you understand the charge, you will plead “guilty” or “not guilty” and pick how you want to be tried. The judge will say, “Are you prepared to plead?” Your choices are:

  • You can plead 'not guilty'. The judge will then set a trial date.
  • You can ask for an adjournment if you need time to speak with a lawyer.
  • You can plead 'guilty' (this means that you admit you committed the offence you are charged with).

If you are not sure how to plead, the judge may adjourn the matter and give you time to speak with a lawyer or enter a not-guilty plea and set a date for trial.

It is your decision how you plead. Even if you decide not to hire a lawyer to represent you in court, you should get some legal advice on your situation before you decide how to plead.

If you plead guilty the judge may sentence you immediately or set a date for sentencing. You or the Crown Attorney may ask the judge to order a background report on you. This is called a pre-sentence report and is prepared by a probation officer. (See the page on Sentencing.)

What happens after the first court date?

A - If your case is adjourned at the first court date to allow you time to get legal advice, the judge will set a date for another hearing. It will follow much the same procedure as that for a first appearance. Be sure that you arrange to see a lawyer as soon as possible. Do not leave it until the day before your next court date.

If you plead "guilty” at the first court date and the judge set a date for sentencing, the next court date will deal only with sentencing.

If you plead "not guilty” at the first court date or elect to be tried in Supreme Court, the next court hearing will likely be the trial or a preliminary hearing, and that may be several months after the first court appearance. Again, you should be sure to get some legal advice before your trial or preliminary hearing.

Whatever the reason for the second court date, the judge will choose a date that is acceptable to you and the Crown Attorney and that fits in with the court schedule. Be sure you know if there are dates you are not available so you can tell the judge. Write down the date and time that you will need to be in court again. If you are unsure, you can phone the court office and ask the court clerk to check it for you.

Can I choose a trial by jury?

A - With some indictable offences, you may choose how to be tried. This means you decide whether to be tried in Provincial Court by a judge alone, in Supreme Court by a judge alone, or in Supreme Court by a judge and jury. You will be given the choice before you enter a plea. You should get legal advice before you make your choice.

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms provides you with a right to trial by jury where the maximum punishment for the offence is imprisonment for five years or a more severe punishment. Some examples are arson (setting fire to property), murder, attempted murder, using an airgun or pistol with intent to harm, forging a passport, abducting a person under 14 years old.

This right does not apply to an offence under military law tried before a military tribunal.

Who will be in court?

A - The Judge

The judge presides (which means he or she is in charge of) over the court. The judge decides, based on the evidence presented in court, whether the case has been proved against you beyond a reasonable doubt. If you are found guilty, the judge decides what sentence to give you. The judge sits at the front of the courtroom and usually wears a black robe.

The Crown Attorney

The Crown Attorney is a lawyer who presents the case against you. Also called “the prosecutor,” “the Crown,” or “Crown Counsel,” the Crown Attorney's job is to prepare the case against you and present the evidence in court. The Crown must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you committed the offence you are charged with. The Crown Attorney usually sits at a table at the front of the courtroom facing the judge.

The Defence Lawyer

If you do have a lawyer, he or she prepares and presents the case on your behalf. The Defence lawyer usually sits at the same table as the Crown Attorney.

The Court Clerk

The court clerk sits at a table in front of the judge facing the public. The clerk calls the court to order, receives physical evidence such as papers presented in court (these are called exhibits), calls and swears in witnesses, writes down any orders and court dates made by the judge, and ensures that what is said in court during a trial is recorded on tape.

The Accused or Defendant

The person who is charged with the offence is called the “accused” or the “defendant.” You have a right to be in court at any time when your case is being dealt with. If you are representing yourself in court, when your case is called, you should walk to the front of the courtroom and identify yourself. During a trial you should sit near the front of the court so that you can hear everything that is going on.

Witnesses

Usually during the first court appearance, there are no witnesses. They will be needed later during the trial to give evidence of what they know about the case. Both you and the Crown Attorney may call witnesses and cross-examine each other's witnesses if you choose to.

The jury

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms gives an accused the right to choose trial by jury if he or she is charged with an offence that carries a penalty on conviction of five or more years in prison or a more sever sentence.

Therefore, if you are accused of certain serious offences you may have a right to choose trial in the Supreme Court by judge and jury. The jury's role is to listen to the evidence and decide whether the evidence proves beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused is guilty of the crime he or she is charged with. The jury does not decide on the sentence the accused receives if he or she is found guilty. The judge decides the sentence. There are no juries in Provincial Court.

Court workers

In larger centres there may be community groups who provide court workers to help individuals through the court process. They cannot give you legal advice. They can help explain what will happen in court, provide support, and help you contact legal and community services. They will speak to anyone who may need help.

Public and Media

Courts are generally open to the public and the media. Anyone can come in and watch what is going on. There are seats towards the back of the courtroom for the public.

Will the media always be there?

A - Often there will be reporters from local newspapers. Other media usually only cover court cases if they involve serious offences or a well-known person is appearing in court.

Television, cameras and tape recorders are allowed at the courthouse, but they are not allowed in the courtroom unless the judge allows them.

How can I prepare for trial?

A - Make sure you know what offence you have been charge with. If you do not have a copy of the paper that says what you are charged with, you can get a copy from the court clerk.

Do not leave it until a day or two before the trial date to prepare. You should make notes of what happened as soon as possible after the event. It may be several months before the trial, and you may forget important facts if you don't write them down. Think about:

• Who you might call as witnesses
• Whether you will give evidence yourself
• What are the strong and weak points of your case
• How you can best present the evidence
• What you will say when speaking to sentence, if you are convicted

You should get some legal advice on your case from a lawyer. Do not leave this until the last minute.

Remember to bring paper and a pen with you to court so that you can make notes during the trial.

Do I have to give evidence at trial?

A - No. You do not have to give evidence yourself. You have a right to remain silent. You should speak with a lawyer about what is best for your situation and how best to present your case.

Here are some points for and against giving evidence.

For:

  • It is the only opportunity you have to tell the judge (and jury if there is one) your version of what happened.
  • You may be the only defence witness who was present when the incident occurred.
  • You may have seen something that no one else saw.
  • You may know facts that no one else knows about the offence.
  • You can explain why you said or did something.
  • You can explain why you could not have committed the offence.
  • You can provide the judge with an opportunity to assess whether you are a truthful, honest person.

Against:

  • You must give evidence under oath (that is you promise to tell the truth) and the Crown Attorney may cross-examine you.
  • The Crown Attorney may point out weaknesses in your evidence.
  • If you have a criminal record, the Crown Attorney can ask you about it.
  • The Crown Attorney can ask you about other matters related to the case that you did not talk about in your testimony.

If you decide to give evidence yourself, you will usually do this after you call any witnesses. The Crown Attorney may cross-examine you and ask if you have a criminal record. If you do not give evidence, the Crown Attorney cannot mention your criminal record unless you are found guilty of the offence. Then it can be mentioned during the sentencing process.

Do I have a right to have copies of witness statements made to the police?

A - Yes. The Crown Attorney must provide you with full disclosure of the case against you. This means that you must be given copies of all evidence relevant to the case including the Crown sheet, police reports, witness statements made to the police both written and verbal, and any other documents such as a Breathalyser certificate.

You can find out from the court clerk the location of the Crown Attorney's office that will deal with your case. You can contact the Crown Attorney's office, tell them you who you are, and ask for disclosure and arrange to pick up the disclosure information. In some cases, it may be mailed to you. You will need to show identification. You should also say that you are going to court without a lawyer.

How do I prepare my defence witnesses?

A - Talk to your witnesses, one at a time, about what happened and what you will ask them in court. They must be able to say in court and in their own words what happened, and what they saw, heard, or did. This is their testimony and must not be rehearsed. You must not tell them what to say or write out what you want them to say.

They will have to promise to tell the truth before they give evidence in court.

The judge will not allow witnesses to give hearsay evidence. This means a witness is not allowed to say what another person told the witness he or she saw, heard or did. Witnesses should not say what they believed happened. They must have seen or heard what happened or what was said, themselves.

Make sure your witnesses know that they may be cross-examined (asked questioned) by the Crown Attorney. Usually all witnesses are excluded from the courtroom until they give evidence.

What can I do if a witness does not want to come to court?

A - Sometimes people do not want to go to court to give evidence as a witness. If you have any doubt that a witness will show up at court, you should go to court one or two months before the trial date and ask for the witness to be subpoenaed (pronounced sub-peen-ed). A subpoena orders a witness to come to court on the date and at the time of trial. Many employers require that employees have a subpoena before they will let them have time off work to go to court.

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms provides that evidence given by a witness at the trial cannot be used against them in any other proceedings, except where the witness is being prosecuted for perjury or for the giving of contradictory evidence.

If I don't have a lawyer, will the judge help me present my case?

A - The judge may explain the trial procedure and the rules of evidence. However, the judge must remain impartial and cannot take your side or act for you. You must not try to contact the judge or ask him or her to talk about your case outside the courtroom.

What happens at the trial?

A - The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms gives you the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty according to law in a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal.

This means you are innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The trial is an independent and impartial tribunal. The trial is the time when the Crown Attorney must present evidence to prove that you committed the offence you are charged with. If the Crown fails to do this, the judge must find you not guilty.

The case is called by a court official

You should go to the front of the court. You should sit at the front of the courtroom so that you can hear what is being said and see the witnesses.

The trial begins

The judge will ask you and the Crown Attorney if you are ready for the trial. If you are not ready, the judge will decide whether to continue or adjourn and set another date for the trial. There must be a good reason to ask for an adjournment. When you have told the judge that you are ready, you can sit down. The court clerk will show you where.

The judge is asked to make a witness exclusion order

You or the Crown Attorney may ask the judge to make an exclusion order. This means that the judge excludes anyone who is to give evidence at the trial from the courtroom. You should tell your witnesses ahead of time that they will be asked to leave the courtroom when they are not actually testifying, and make sure that they leave. However, although you may be a witness and give evidence at the trial, you have a right to remain in court for the whole trial.

The Crown Attorney presents the case against you

To prove the case against you, the Crown Attorney must present evidence that you:

•Are the person charged with the offence
• Committed the offence, and
• Intended to commit the offence.

The Crown Attorney will call witnesses

For example, if you were charged with shoplifting, the Crown would likely have as witnesses, the store manager or security officer and the police officer who investigated the matter.

Each witness goes into the witness box, swears or affirms to tell the truth, and answers questions from the Crown Attorney. As the witness answers, you should write down the main points and anything that you may want to question later. Note any weak points, for example, where witnesses contradict themselves or each other. When the Crown has finished with a witness, you will have a chance to ask your questions. This is called cross-examination.

The Crown Attorney may also use written evidence such as a Breathalyzer test certificate or drug analysis certificate. Before your trial you should get legal advice on how to handle such evidence.

You present your case, called your defence

Until now, the judge/jury has only heard the Crown's side. It is now your turn to present your side by calling witnesses. If you call witnesses, you must not ask them leading questions. For example, you can ask “Were you with anyone on the evening of August 19?” You cannot say, “You were with me on the evening of August 19 weren't you?”

When you have finished asking a witness questions, the Crown Attorney may cross-examine the witness. If you give evidence the Crown Attorney may cross-examine you.

You should get legal advice on what written evidence might be allowed in your case. You will need an original for the court and a copy for yourself and for the Crown Attorney.

The Crown and the defence sum up their case

After all the evidence has been presented in court, both you and the Crown Attorney have an opportunity to sum up your case (these are called submissions). Use this time to sum up the points in your favour.

If you presented evidence in your defence, you will make your submission first. However, if you are not represented by a lawyer, the judge might ask the Crown to sum up first. If you did not present a defence, the Crown Attorney usually sums up first.

The judge makes a decision (called the verdict)

Based on the evidence presented in court, the judge must decide whether the evidence against you is sufficient to prove that you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

The judge takes into account all the evidence presented in court by you and the Crown Attorney. Sometimes the judge will adjourn the court briefly to allow time to reach a decision.

If there is a jury trial, the jury will reach a verdict together after considering all the evidence presented in court.

If the judge (or jury) finds you not guilty you are free to go. You have been acquitted

If the judge (or jury) finds you guilty, the next step is for the judge to sentence you.

Can I ask the Crown's witnesses questions in court?

A - Yes. The disclosure will tell you the basic information that the Crown Attorney will use in court. To prepare your cross-examination questions think about the offence you are charged with:

• Who was there?
• What could each person see or hear?

Make a list of possible witnesses and write down what each person saw or did. Do not forget to include police officers. Also try to determine if there are possible witnesses who were not interviewed by police.

Think about what each person could say about the offence and make notes. Now think about what questions you could ask to point out any weaknesses.

You do not have to cross-examine every witness. You should only cross-examine a witness if you feel that it will help your case; if the witness made conflicting answers; or if there are weak spots in the evidence. For example, if the witness cannot clearly recall an event, or if you believe the witness knows other facts important to your case, you may wish to cross-examine.

When you cross-examine you should ask questions that show the witness is unsure of the facts or that the evidence is weak. For example, if at the time of the offence it was dark and raining and the witness, who wears glasses, was standing 200 yards away, you might want to ask questions about the weather, the lighting and the witness's ability to see clearly.

Do not lose your temper or say that the witness is lying. Do not argue with the witness. Ask only questions that you feel will help your case. Do not ask questions that allow witnesses to repeat something they are sure of. Ask questions you already know the answers to. For example, if the witness claims to have seen something clearly at 10 pm on August 19, all you want to point out is that it was dark at the time, and there was no street light nearby.

When you are cross-examining you can use questions that suggest the answer that you want. For example you can say, “It was raining hard at 10 pm on August 19, wasn't it?” These are called leading questions.

Even if you do not cross-examine the witness, you can draw attention to contradictions and weaknesses in the evidence when you sum up at the end of the trial.

What is a directed verdict?

A - When the Crown Attorney has presented the case against you, if you feel that all the things that had to be proved were not, you can make a motion for a directed verdict. This means that you are asking the judge to dismiss the case without hearing the defence evidence. You do this by standing up and saying to the judge: Reserving my right to call defence evidence, I wish to make a motion for a directed verdict. You should then tell the judge what you think has been missed from the Crown's case. For example, you might note that none of the Crown's witnesses identified you in court as the person who was at the scene of the crime.

If the judge agrees with you, you will be acquitted (found not guilty) and the case dismissed. If the judge disagrees with you, your motion will be refused and your defence will begin.

How do I sum up my case?

A - You will have an opportunity to sum up the important points of your case. It is a final opportunity for you to remind the judge (or jury) of the weaknesses in the Crown Attorney's case and the strengths of your case. Write down the main points that you want to cover so that you do not forget anything

When making your submission you should remember to:

• Keep your summary short.
• Tell the judge why your witnesses are believable.
• Draw attention to weaknesses in the prosecution's case, and show that the Crown has not proved the case against you.

You should not try to present any new evidence during your submission.

The Crown makes a submission to try to show the judge that the evidence proves that you are guilty.

What happens if I'm found guilty?

A - If you are found guilty of a crime, the judge will decide on the penalty. This is called sentencing. Even if you had trial by jury, it is the judge that decides on the sentence. Before deciding on the sentence the judge will allow you and the Crown Attorney an opportunity to speak. This is called speaking to sentence. It is an opportunity for you to tell the judge about yourself and any circumstances surrounding the offence. For example, if you committed the offence because you were depressed about losing your job. Be honest. The judge will have heard hundreds of stories and will not be impressed by a “snow job”. (For more information on speaking to sentence see the FAQs on Sentencing.)

You or the Crown Attorney may ask the judge to order a pre-sentence report and set a date, usually six to eight weeks ahead, for a sentencing hearing. This allows time for the report to be written. The pre-sentence report is prepared by a probation officer and provides information about you, your family, your education, your work, your community involvement and your criminal record if you have one. The information for the report will come from you, people you suggest as references and the police.

When speaking to sentence, the victim or the Crown Attorney may read a Victim Impact Statement. This explains how the victim has been affected by your crime.

Will I get a criminal record?

A - You will get a criminal record if you are found guilty and are convicted of a criminal offence. If your sentence is an absolute or conditional discharge, there will not be a conviction recorded but there will be a record of the finding of guilt. You will not get a criminal record if you are convicted of an offence under provincial laws. For information on criminal records and pardons see the page on Sentencing on this website. 

Where can I get more information?

  • For more information on the law or to use the Lawyer Referral Service call the LISNS Legal Information Line or Lawyer Referral Service call 455.3135 in the Halifax area or 1.800.665.9779 toll free in the rest of Nova Scotia.
  • Look at the 'I need legal help' page for information on finding a lawyer in private practice (a lawyer you would pay) or contacting Nova Scotia Legal Aid.

These FAQs were developed with the support of a financial contribution from the Department of Justice Canada.

December 2011

Roadside spot checks

Don't drink and drive. We've all heard it. But are we listening? The sobering fact is that Canada's impaired driving rate has increased in 4 of the last 5 years. In 2011 police reported about 90,300 impaired driving incidents Canada-wide, including about 3,000 in Nova Scotia.*

In Nova Scotia police can give an on-the-spot roadside license suspension to drivers who get a 'warn' on a roadside screening test, or whose breath test shows a blood alcohol level between .05 and .08 (50 to 80 milligrams of alcohol in 100 milliliters of blood).

Immediate roadside license suspensions under Nova Scotia's Motor Vehicle Act are:

  • 7 days for a first suspension within 10 years;
  • 15 days for a second suspension within 10 years; and
  • 30 days for a third or subsequent suspension within 10 years.

Licensed learners or newly licensed drivers must have zero blood alcohol when driving, so face a 24-hour immediate roadside suspension and a significant fine if caught driving with any alcohol in their blood.

In addition to a roadside suspension, police may impound the driver's vehicle. Any towing and storage fees must be paid by the person who picks up the vehicle from impound. Drivers who get a suspension also have to pay a license reinstatement fee.

Along with facing criminal charges, a driver who takes the breathalyzer and blows over .08, or who refuses to take the breathalyzer, will have their driver's license suspended for 3 months, starting 7 days after the incident.  This 3 month administrative license suspension under the Motor Vehicle Act is on top of any driving prohibition imposed by the criminal court for a drinking & driving conviction.

The above penalties are under the Motor Vehicle Act.  

There are of course other penalties under the Criminal Code.  The most common drinking and driving offences under the Criminal Code are:

  • impaired driving (impaired by alcohol or drugs);
  • driving over .08 (blood alcohol level more than 80 milligrams in 100 millilitres of blood);
  • refusal to do sobriety tests or give a breath or blood sample.

A conviction for any of these Criminal Code offences means a criminal record, at least 1 year's loss of license (first offence), a high fine (minimum $1000), increased insurance premiums, and strict license reinstatement conditions.

Quite apart from penalties under the Motor Vehicle Act or Criminal Code, drinking and driving has other serious costs for everyone involved, including financial losses, psychological trauma, physical injuries and loss of life.  We should all heed the message: don't drink and drive.

For more information:

*Statistics Canada - Police-reported crime statistics in Canada, 2011

This page gives legal information, not legal advice.
November 2012

Sentencing

This page gives general information about sentencing. It does not give legal advice. If you are charged with a crime, you should speak with a lawyer to get legal advice. Try to speak with a lawyer before you go to court. Click here for ways to find a lawyer.

 
This page only talks about sentencing of adults (age 18 or older) who have been charged with a criminal offence under the Criminal Code or Controlled Drugs and Substances Act

The Criminal Code is a federal law that sets out most criminal offences in Canada.   It also:

  • gives procedures for dealing with persons accused of committing a criminal offence, and
  • outlines the sentencing principles to be followed, and
  • outlines penalties available if an accused is found guilty or pleads guilty to a criminal offence.

The Criminal Code is available online at: laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/acts/C-46/

The Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, which deals with criminal offences like possession, production, importing and trafficking of drugs, also has some sentencing principles. The Controlled Drugs and Substances Act is available online at: laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/acts/C-38.8/

What is a sentence?

A -  A sentence is the punishment you receive if you plead guilty to or are found guilty of an offence. The judge decides what sentence to give you, even in a trial by jury, and even if you (or your lawyer on your behalf) and the Crown Attorney jointly recommend a particular sentence to the judge.

What will the judge consider when deciding on a sentence?

The Criminal Code has sentencing principles and objectives that the judge must keep in mind when deciding what sentence to give. 

Some general sentencing objectives are to:

  • denounce unlawful conduct;
  • discourage the offender from getting in trouble with the law again;
  • discourage others from committing offences;
  • help rehabilitate offenders;
  • make amends for harm done to victims or the community;
  • encourage the offender to take responsibility for harm done to victims and the community.

The judge also considers:

  • Whether you pled guilty or were found guilty after a trial;
  • The kind of offence and how serious it was. The Criminal Code usually provides a maximum penalty for each offence. Summary conviction offences are less serious offences. The usual maximum penalty for a summary offence is a $5,000 fine or six months (sometimes up to 18 months) in prison, or both. Indictable offences are more serious offences. The maximum penalties for indictable offences vary, but are greater than those for a summary offence.  There are also mandatory minimum penalties for some offences, such as impaired driving, certain drug offences, and certain sexual offences against children;
  • Your level of responsibility for the offence, and the circumstances surrounding the offence, such as how you committed the offence.  For example: did you plan it? did you use force or a weapon? how actively involved were you (if there were others involved)?
  • Your previous criminal record (if any).  If you have a previous criminal record you may get a stiffer sentence;
  • The date of your last offence (if any);
  • Your background, including age, family and health situation, education, and work record;
  • Your attitude towards the offence. For example, are you sorry?
  • The number of similar offences in the community;
  • The kind of sentence that is usually given for similar offences;
  • Any pre-sentence report;
  • ‘Gladue’ rights, if you are Aboriginal.
Gladue rights: Tell your lawyer or the judge if you are Aboriginal.  Aboriginal people who are charged with a crime have the right to have the judge take their unique circumstances and background into account in sentencing.  These are called Gladue rights, based on a Supreme Court of Canada case called R v. Gladue.  Gladue applies whether or not you have a lawyer.  Talk to your lawyer about Gladue rights.  You can also contact the Mi’kmaq Legal Support Network: 1-877-379-2042

 

What is adult diversion?

Adult diversion is an out-of-court way to deal with some types of criminal offences.  It is often a possibility for minor criminal offences, where the accused has no prior criminal record, regrets the offence and is willing to take responsibility for what happened.  If you are eligible for, and successfully complete Adult Diversion, then the charges will be dropped and you will not get a criminal record for that offence.  Police and the Department of Justice will however keep a record that you went through Adult Diversion.

Adult Diversion may be available if you:

  • were at least 18 when you committed the offence;
  • are willing to accept responsibility for what happened;
  • do not have a long youth record or an adult criminal record;
  • have not gone through Adult Diversion in the past 2 years.

Depending on the situation Adult Diversion may involve things like doing volunteer work, paying restitution, attending counselling, going to mediation or writing a letter of apology to the victim.
Most people are referred to Adult Diversion by the police.  The Crown must agree that Adult Diversion is appropriate in the circumstances.  Go to novascotia.ca/just/corrections/adult_diversion.asp for more about the Adult Diversion program.

If appropriate, ask the police or Crown Attorney if it is possible for you to be referred to Adult Diversion. Do this before you enter a plea. 

 

When does sentencing happen?

A - For less serious offences, often the judge will sentence you immediately if you plead guilty or if you are found guilty. For more serious offences, usually the judge will set another court date for sentencing and will order a pre-sentence report. 

If you were in custody before your trial, the judge will decide whether you should stay in custody until the sentencing hearing.

If you plead guilty, or are found guilty, and need time to prepare for sentencing, you can ask the judge to adjourn (delay) the sentencing hearing.

 

What is a pre-sentence report?

A - The pre-sentence report is prepared by a probation officer, and helps the judge know more about you and your background.

The probation officer will speak with you, and may also speak with other people about you, such as your parents, other family members, or your friends.  The probation office will prepare a report including information about things like your character, criminal record, cultural background, education, family history, medical history, work experience, and willingness to make up for what happened.

The judge, the Crown Attorney and your lawyer get a copy of the report. If you do not have a lawyer, you should get a copy of the report. Make sure you read the report carefully. If information in the report is wrong, you should tell your lawyer or the judge.

The Nova Scotia Department of Justice, Correctional Services, has a fact sheet on Presentence Reports - go to novascotia.ca/just/Corrections/presentence_reports.asp

What happens at the sentencing hearing?

A - The Crown Attorney is the government lawyer (also called the prosecutor or ‘Crown’).  The Crown Attorney will speak first at the sentencing hearing, and will tell the judge:

  • About the offence;
  • How it was committed;
  • How much damage was done or property taken;
  • Your involvement; and
  • Your previous criminal record.

The Crown Attorney will also suggest what sentence you should get.  The Crown may also present a Victim Impact Statement saying how the offence affected the victim(s).   The victim can also choose to be in court to read his or her Victim Impact Statement.

You or your lawyer also have a chance to speak. You can bring witnesses to give evidence about your character, although it is not usual to do this. You or your lawyer will also suggest a sentence. If you do not have a lawyer, someone else such as a friend, relative, or employer can speak on your behalf, but you must be there in court.

This entire process is sometimes called ‘speaking to sentence’.

What should I say when I am speaking to sentence?

A - There are three main areas that you or your lawyer should cover:

1. Your background
2. Your criminal record
3. The circumstances of the offence.

1. Your background. The judge wants to know about you. He or she wants to see that you are honest about yourself. Emphasize the special things about you, good and bad. For example, if you have been found guilty of impaired driving and you are undergoing treatment to help you stop drinking, tell the judge.

Things to mention are:

  • Your age;
  • Your income/whether you are living in poverty;
  • Where you live;
  • Whether you are married, single or in a long term relationship;
  • Whether you have children and their ages;
  • Whether other family members, such as parents, depend on you;
  • Whether you are currently in school;
  • Your future plans;
  • Whether you have any physical or mental health problems;
  • Whether you have taken any steps on your own to get help with issues such as anger management or drug or alcohol addiction;
  • Your educational level;
  • Your employment record (if you are not working, tell the judge why not)
  • Your family background
  • Whether you are an Aboriginal person (see Gladue rights, above);
  • Your standing in the community. For example, do you do volunteer work or belong to a club or place of worship?
  • Whether you are an immigrant or refugee, and your immigration status.
Be sure to tell the judge, or your lawyer, about your immigration status. A judge may take immigration consequences into account in deciding on a sentence.

 

2. Your criminal record.  In most cases, the Crown Attorney will tell the judge if you have a criminal record. Listen carefully when your record is brought up so you can correct any mistakes.

You may wish to give information about your record. For example, if your criminal record is five years old and you have not been convicted of an offence since, you should tell the judge. If you have a previous conviction but it is unrelated to the present offence, you should tell the judge. For example, your previous conviction was for impaired driving while the present one is for shoplifting.

3. The circumstances of the offence. The Crown Attorney will tell the judge how the offence was committed. You might wish to explain some things.

For example, you should tell the judge if:

  • You disagree with the Crown’s version of events;
  • You were having personal, health, or financial problems;
  • You are voluntarily getting help with your problems;
  • You committed the offence out of necessity (because you had no money to buy food, for example);
  • You played a small part in the offence (if there were others involved);
  • You were drunk or on drugs;
  • You are sorry for committing the offence;
  • You are sorry for harming the victim and community;
  • You co-operated with the police;
  • You pled guilty at the first opportunity (if you did);
  • A particular sentence would affect your employment or immigration status;
  • You tried to help or repay the victim; or
  • You have suffered any loss as a result of the offence (such as losing your job).

How should I act in court?

A - You need to make a good impression on the judge. When you go to court be clean and neatly dressed.

When you are in court:

  • Be polite;
  • Be honest;
  • Stand up when addressing the court;
  • Show respect for the court;
  • Call the judge 'Your Honour' (or 'my Lord' or 'my Lady' if it is a Supreme Court hearing) - that is the proper form of address;
  • Think carefully before you answer questions;
  • Speak clearly so that the judge can hear and understand what you say;
  • Don't eat or chew gum;
  • Turn off your cell phone.

Q - What types of sentence are there?"}

1.Absolute or conditional discharge
2. Probation
3. Fine
4. Restitution
5. Jail and Conditional sentences ('House arrest')
6. Prohibitions (eg. driving, weapons)


Depending on the offence and circumstances, a judge might also order, for example:


1. Absolute and conditional discharges

A discharge means you have been found guilty, but instead of entering a formal conviction against you, the judge discharges you. The effect of a discharge is that you have been found guilty, but you will not have a criminal record, as a criminal record is a record of convictions.

The judge can only give you a discharge if:

(1) The offence has no minimum penalty, and has a maximum penalty of less than 14 years in prison;
(2) A discharge is in your best interests; and
(3) A discharge is not contrary to the public interest.  

For example, a discharge might be given to a person who has otherwise been of good character, committed a minor offence (for example, shoplifting), and whose career or immigration status could be at risk if he or she has a criminal conviction. Corporations cannot receive discharges.

There are two types of discharge: absolute and conditional.

If you get an absolute discharge, you do not have to serve any sentence – you are immediately discharged. Absolute discharges are not common. 

If you get a conditional discharge, the judge will make a probation order with probation conditions that you must meet. Examples of probation conditions are doing a number of hours of volunteer work, participating in a drug or alcohol treatment program, and keeping out of trouble with the law (and see probation below). If you break any of the conditions, you can be brought back to court and the judge may convict you of the original offence (which means you would have a criminal record) and give you a different sentence.  You may also be charged with breaking the probation order.

If you are discharged you will not have a criminal record, as a criminal record is a record of convictions.  However, there will still be a police record of your discharge.

2. Suspended sentence and probation

A judge may impose conditions for you to follow for a specified period of time. The conditions will be in a probation order. A probation order can last for up to three years. 

The judge may:

  • if there is no minimum punishment for the offence, suspend (put off) sentencing you and instead put you on probation.  If you follow the probation conditions, you will not have to serve any other sentence.  If you break the conditions the judge may sentence you on the original offence and also give you an additional sentence for breaking the probation order; or
  • give you a fine and probation; or
  • give you a jail term or conditional sentence of less than 2 years, and probation;
  • give you a discharge, as long as you meet the conditions in a probation order (see ‘conditional discharge’ above).

The judge cannot combine all 3 - that is, probation and a fine and jail.

If you are given probation you must:

  • stay out of trouble with the law (‘keep the peace and be of good behaviour’);
  • go to court when required;
  • tell your probation officer ahead of time if you change your name, address, or employment.

The probation order may also order you to:

  • Report regularly to your probation officer;
  • Follow treatment and counselling recommended by your probation officer;
  • Stay away from liquor or illegal drugs;
  • Stay away from guns and other firearms or weapons;
  • Pay for the damage that you caused to the victim (called 'restitution');
  • Do up to 240 hours of volunteer work in the community (called 'community service');
  • Stay within a particular area or stay away from a particular place;
  • Follow the terms of an alcohol ignition interlock program;
  • Stay away from the people you got into trouble with;
  • Stay away from the victim (and/or the witnesses).

When you are on probation, you usually have to report to a probation officer, who makes sure that you follow the conditions of the probation order.  It is a separate criminal offence to break the conditions of a probation order.

3. Fine

For most summary (less serious) and indictable (more serious) offences you may get a fine, either alone or along with another penalty such as probation or a jail term.
Usually, the judge will take into account your ability to pay a fine and allow you time to pay. If you do not pay the fine, you can be sent to jail.

If you are unable to pay the fine you can sometimes make alternative arrangements through a Fine Option Program. The Fine Option Program allows an offender to work off a fine by doing volunteer work. To get more information or to register in a program, you can contact any probation office, or call the Nova Scotia Fine Option Program at (902) 424-8297 or toll free at 1-866-443-6995.  Click here to view the Nova Scotia Department of Justice, Correctional Services fact sheet on the Fine Options Program.

Victim fine surcharge

Federal and provincial laws require that persons convicted or discharged of a criminal offence pay a surcharge called the 'victim fine surcharge'. The surcharge is mandatory and goes towards victim services.

The surcharge for a criminal offence under federal laws ranges from 30 percent of any fine imposed or, if no fine is imposed, then $100 for summary offences, or $200 for indictable ones.   The judge may impose a higher victim surcharge if the judge feels it is appropriate, and that the offender is able to pay more. 

You cannot work off a victim surcharge through the Fine Option Program.

4. Restitution

Restitution means you would have to pay money to someone, usually the victim, as compensation for the harm you did in committing the offence, or during your arrest.

For example, you might be ordered to pay:

  • For property you damaged or destroyed, up to the replacement value;
  • For money losses related to physical or psychological injuries you caused or inflicted. For example, if the victim had to take time off work because of injuries, and lost income as a result;
  • If the victim is your spouse, common-law partner or child, or anyone else who was living with you when the offence happened and they had to move out at a result, for their costs of moving, temporary housing, food, child care and transportation.

A restitution order can be made whether you are convicted or discharged (absolute or conditional discharge), and may be made together with any other sentence. If the judge feels you would not be able to pay both a fine and restitution, the judge must make the restitution order first. 

Restitution may be part of a probation order, or may be a stand-alone order, in which case it may be enforced in a similar way to a civil (non-criminal) court order. 

5. Jail, Conditional Sentence ('House arrest')
A jail term means you have to serve your sentence in custody. Depending on the length of the term, you may serve the sentence in a federal prison (2 years or more) or in a provincial prison (less than 2 years).
Also see, What is an intermittent prison term?.

Sometimes the judge may order you to serve the sentence in the community rather than in jail. This is called a conditional sentence and it is sometimes referred to as 'house arrest'.

The judge will give you conditions that you must follow.  If you break any conditions a judge may order that you spend the rest of your sentence in jail.

The judge can only give a conditional sentence if:

  • You are sentenced to less than 2 years in jail;
  • There is no minimum jail term for the offence;
  • The judge is satisfied that the community would not be at risk;
  • It is consistent with sentencing principles, and;
  • The offence is not on the list of offences for which conditional sentences are not allowed.  For example, the judge can’t give a conditional sentence for: indictable offences for which the maximum penalty is 14 years or life; manslaughter; aggravated assault; arson; fraud over $5000; dangerous driving causing bodily harm or death; impaired driving causing bodily harm or death; and various offences where the maximum penalty is 10 years in jail when the Crown treats it as an indictable (more serious) offence, including:
    • criminal harassment (‘stalking’)
    • sexual assault
    • a terrorism offence
    • kidnapping
    • abduction of a person under 14 years old
    • human trafficking
    • prison breach
    • being unlawfully in a dwelling house
    • arson for a fraudulent purpose
    • motor vehicle theft
    • break and enter
    • theft over $5000.

This is just part of the list.  For the complete list of offences for which conditional sentences are not allowed, see section 742.1 of the Criminal Code.

6. Prohibition order

Depending on the offence and circumstances it may be mandatory or optional for the judge to impose a prohibition order.  The length of any prohibition order varies – again, according to the offence and circumstances. 

Some examples are being prohibited from:

What is the difference between a consecutive and concurrent prison term?

If you are convicted of more than one offence and you receive jail terms for each one, the judge decides whether you serve the terms at the same time (concurrently) or one after the other (consecutively).

Generally you will get concurrent sentences if the offences were committed together and were related to each other. Otherwise, you get consecutive sentences. However, it is up to the judge to decide.

What is an intermittent prison term?

If you get a prison sentence of less than 90 days, the judge may give you an intermittent sentence. This means you can serve your sentence at intervals, such as on weekends. The judge will put you on probation until you have completed your sentence. If the judge orders it, you may still be on probation after you complete your time in jail.

As with all sentences, the judge considers your age and character, the offence and the circumstances surrounding the offence. In addition the judge looks at whether:

  • You will lose your job if you are given a 'straight' term;
  • You are attending school or are in a training program that should not be interrupted;
  • An intermittent term will help you avoid some of the ill effects which might flow from a straight prison term;
  • It will help your rehabilitation;
  • It will help you and your family avoid financial hardship.

Can I appeal the sentence?

You may think about appealing if you think the sentence is too harsh. The Crown can appeal if it thinks the sentence is not severe enough. You have 30 days from the time the judge passes sentence to appeal. You should talk with a lawyer right away if you are thinking about an appeal.  The court which hears the appeal may confirm the sentence, increase it or decrease it, including removing or adding penalties.

If I plead 'not guilty' will I get a harsher sentence?

You have a right to a trial. The law says that you should not get a harsher sentence if you plead not guilty.
While a guilty plea is a factor that the judge may take into account when deciding on a sentence, you should not plead guilty just because you think you might get a lighter sentence.

Will I have a criminal record?

You will have a criminal record if you are convicted of breaking a federal criminal law, such as the Criminal Code or the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. Examples of offences which result in a criminal record are assault, theft, drinking and driving, possession of or trafficking drugs. If your sentence is an absolute or conditional discharge (and you complete the conditions), you will not have a criminal record, as you will be deemed not to have been convicted; however, there will be a record that you were found guilty.

You will not get a criminal record if you are convicted of an offence under provincial laws like the Motor Vehicle Act or Liquor Control ActClick here for more information about tickets under provincial laws.

What is the effect of having a criminal record?

A criminal record may restrict your employment and it may prevent you from travelling outside Canada. If you are convicted of another offence, your criminal record may mean you will get a stiffer sentence.

Can I get a pardon (record suspension)?

If you have a criminal record but complete your sentence and stay out of trouble for a number of years, you can apply for a record suspension. As of March 13, 2012 pardons are called record suspensions. If you are given a record suspension, your criminal record will be kept separate from other records. Federal agencies, such as the RCMP, must not give out details of it. For information and to apply for a record suspension call the Parole Board of Canada Record Suspension Info Line toll free at 1 800 874-2652, or visit www.pbc-clcc.gc.ca.  You do not need a lawyer or other representative to apply for a record suspension.

If you got an absolute or conditional discharge after July 24, 1992, the record will automatically be removed from the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC) computer system one year (absolute discharge) or three years (conditional discharge) after the court decision. For discharges given before July 24, 1992 to be removed from the record, you must contact the RCMP at the following address:

Royal Canadian Mounted Police
Pardon and Purge Services
P.O. Box 8885
Ottawa ON K1G 3M8
(613) 998.6158
rcmp-grc.gc.ca/cr-cj/pp-er-eng.htm

You will not have a criminal record if you are convicted of breaking a provincial law. Examples of such offences are speeding, driving without insurance, or hunting without a license. However, police keep records of contacts you have with them. These records are not sealed by a pardon.

For more information on record suspension including a fact sheet and frequently asked questions visit the Parole Board of Canada's website at www.pbc-clcc.gc.ca/

How can I find a lawyer?

  • Legal Aid Duty Counsel:  Nova Scotia Legal Aid has duty counsel in provincial court in some parts of the province. They can give you preliminary, free advice if you are in court without a lawyer. Call 902-420-7800 in the Halifax Regional Municipality or 902-539-7026 in the Sydney area;

  • Nova Scotia Legal Aid:  If you cannot afford a lawyer, contact Nova Scotia Legal Aid to see if you qualify.  Legal Aid is listed in the phone book under 'Legal Aid' (white pages and government section) or 'Nova Scotia Legal Aid' (white pages), or visit nslegalaid.ca for contact information or to apply for Nova Scotia Legal Aid online.  Nova Scotia Legal Aid also has some legal information about sentencing online at: www.nslegalaid.ca

  • Lawyers in private practice are listed in the Yellow pages of the phone book. You should look for a criminal law lawyer.  A friend, family member or co-worker might also suggest a lawyer.  If you have one, your union or workplace Employee Assistance Plan (EAP) may also offer some help with finding a lawyer;

  • You can call the LISNS Lawyer Referral Service where you may be referred to a lawyer who will give you an initial interview of up to 30 minutes for no more than $20 plus tax.  Regular fees would generally be charged after the initial consultation, although some of the Lawyer Referral Service members may offer some flexibility in fee arrangements.   To use LISNS Legal Information Line or the Lawyer Referral Service call 902-455-3135 in the Halifax area or 1-800-665-9779 toll free.

Content last reviewed February 2016

 

 

Sexual Assault

This page gives legal information only, not legal advice.

Assault is any intentional use of force against you without consent. Touching, slapping, kicking, and punching are all examples of assault. An attempt or threaten to use force may also be an assault in some situations.

Sexual Assault is a form of assault that involves circumstances of a sexual nature that violate your sexual integrity, such as touching private areas of your body, kissing, fondling, or sexual intercourse without your consent.

What is sexual assault?

'Simple' assault involves things like having private areas of your body touched, being kissed, or becoming involved in sexual intercourse or oral sex without your consent.

'Sexual assault causing bodily harm' involves sexual assaults where you are injured.

'Sexual assault with a weapon' involves the use of a weapon, or a threat to use a weapon during sexual assault. Aggravated sexual assault involves life-threatening sexual assaults, including those where you are wounded, maimed, disfigured, or your life is put in danger.

The penalties and procedures for dealing with assault depend on the type of assault and the amount of violence used.  There are mandatory jail sentences for many sexual assault offences.

Can a spouse or partner be charged with sexually assaulting me?

Yes. The police can charge your spouse or partner with sexually assaulting you. There does not have to be a witness for a judge to convict a person of sexual assault.

Can I drop the charges?

No. If the police have laid charges, you cannot withdraw them. After a charge is laid, the Crown Attorney decides whether a charge will be changed, withdrawn, or go to trial. If you are afraid or do not want to give evidence, tell the Crown Attorney as soon as possible. You will find contact information for the Crown online at: novascotia.ca/pps/contact.asp, or look under 'Justice' in the government section of the telephone book.

What happens when I report a sexual assault?

The police will take a statement from you.  They may collect evidence.  The police may want a medical record, and to photograph any injuries.  The police will likely question the accused person and place him or her under arrest.  The police will lay a criminal charge against him or her, if they believe there is enough evidence of sexual assault.  Once you report the assault, or if you are considering reporting an assault and want more information about what to expect, you may wish to contact Victims Services, a Sexual Assault Centre, a Transition House, or a Women's Centre for support. Key contact information is listed under 'Where can I get more information?' below.

The police or judge will probably release the accused from jail before the trial after getting him or her to sign an "undertaking" or "recognizance".  Usually the accused must agree not to contact you, or attempt to contact you.  If you are afraid that the accused will contact or harm you before the trial talk to the Crown Attorney (the lawyer that will make the case against the accused.)

Will I have to go to court?

Yes. You will probably have to go to court, unless the accused person pleads guilty. If someone serves you with a subpoena, you have to go to court and testify or the judge may issue a warrant for your arrest. The judicial system usually requires you to give evidence in court in both a preliminary hearing (if there is one) and a trial.

Publication ban: The judge can, and often will, make an order directing that your identity not be published or reported by the media.

For more information on being a witness, go to the 'Being a witness' page.

Will my sexual history be discussed in court?

To have your sexual history submitted in court, the accused must apply in writing. The judge then holds a two stage hearing to decide, and must provide written reasons for his or her ruling. The media cannot publish any information from these hearings without the judge's permission. For the court to admit your sexual history, it must covers specific events, be relevant to an issue at the trial, or have significant value. Nobody can bring up your sexual history in order to suggest that you are more likely to have consented to the sexual activity on which the charge is based, or suggest that you are less worthy of belief.  When deciding whether to admit your sexual history, the judge must consider the rights of the accused to defend him or herself, the potential prejudice that this information might raise, as well as your right to personal dignity and privacy.

Where can I get more information and support?

  • Health care

Phone 911 in an emergency.  Police and highly trained paramedics will respond with emergency medical care.  You can also go to a hospital emergency department for urgent medical care.

Your family doctor

HealthLink 811.  HealthLink 811 is a 24/7 province-wide service. There is no charge to phone 811. Callers can receive information, advice, or community-based referrals.  Bilingual nurses are available to support callers in French & English.  811 can also support callers in more than 120 languages through a third party interpretation service.

  • Transition Houses

There are shelters throughout Nova Scotia where a woman and her child can go for safety, information and support.  To find a shelter in your area, contact the Transition House Association of Nova Scotia (THANS): www.thans.ca, or phone (902) 429-7287

Every transition house has its own free long distance number.  A woman can call the transition house anytime to get information, support and safety planning from a trained counsellor, even if she does not want to live in the shelter.  She does not have to give her name.  Interpretation services may sometimes be available.

  • Go to nsdomesticviolence.ca for more information, resources and support services, including support services for male victims of sexual abuse

  • Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) program

In Halifax, phone the Avalon SANE response line at 902-425-0122, 24 hours, 7 days a week.  Visit avaloncentre.ca/services/sexual-assault-nurse-examiner/ for information about SANE.  Capital Health provides clients who have a language barrier with free access to face-to-face interpretation.

In Antigonish, phone the Antigonish Women's Resource Centre & Sexual Assault Services Association at 1 877-880-SANE.  The Antigonish SANE Program serves Pictou county and the Guysborough Antigonish Strait Health Authority.

In Lunenburg & Queens Counties, Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners are available at Bridgewater, Liverpool and Lunenburg hospitals.  Go to www.saslq.ca for information about the SANE program, and about other sexual assault services available for victims across the South Shore.

  • Victims Services

The Provincial Victims Services Program has 4 offices that help victims when the police are involved.    Phone for free from anywhere in Nova Scotia: 1 888-470-0773.  Phone in Halifax 902-424-3307.

RCMP Victim Services: call 902-426-1280 or visit rcmp-grc.gc.ca

Halifax Regional Police Victim Services: call 902-490-5300 or visit www.halifax.ca/police/programs/victimservices.php


Last reviewed February 2016.

 

Speeding tickets 101

Seacil the Legal Seagull’s feathers are ruffled again! Seacil, who is LISNS’ mascot, recently got a speeding ticket. Seacil was ticketed for speeding by 31 km/hour or more over the posted limit.

Like the almost 11,000 folks who got a speeding ticket in the Halifax area in 2012*, Seacil was not pleased to learn that the penalties are pretty stiff.  Penalties for speeding depend on how much you are over the speed limit. It also matters where it happened. For example, fines are doubled if you are in a school zone or temporary roadwork area.

Penalties for a regular speeding ticket (first offence) are:

  • $227.41 fine and 2 points if you are 1-15 km/hour over the limit;
  • $284.91 fine and 3 points if you are 16-30 km/hour over the limit; and
  • $399.91 fine and 4 points if you are 31 km/hour or more over the limit.

Most speeding convictions also result in a license suspension – usually 7 days for a first offence and longer for subsequent offences. Seacil was flying along at a great pace, so if convicted faces a $399.91 fine, 4 points on his driving record, and a 7 day license suspension. Seacil’s insurance premiums may also go up. At least he won’t get a criminal record, as traffic tickets are just provincial summary (less serious) offences, and are not criminal.

Here are some things to think about if you get a speeding ticket like Seacil did:

  • Read the ticket, front and back;
  • Read the wording of the section of the law you’ve been ticketed under. You’ll find the Motor Vehicle Act online at nslegislature.ca/legc/statutes/motorv.htm;
  • Don’t miss the due date. Before the due date on the ticket, you must choose whether you’ll just pay the fine, which means you are pleading guilty and are convicted, or go to Provincial Court and fill out a form to plead not guilty and have a trial, or plead guilty but speak to the court about the penalty;
  • Ask for disclosure. For speeding tickets disclosure usually includes:
  • the police officer’s copy of the ticket, with the officer’s notes about things like weather and traffic conditions, and use of a speed detection device like Lidar or Radar;
  • calibration certificate for the speed detection device;
  • certificate showing the officer’s training in using the device; and
  • maintenance record for the device.

You get disclosure from the Crown prosecutor’s office. For example, in Halifax you get disclosure from Halifax Regional Municipality Legal Services, and you must ask for disclosure in writing. Contact your nearest Provincial Court (1-877-445-4012) for the address of your local Crown office that deals with traffic tickets;

  • Before you plead guilty or not guilty to a ticket, make sure you understand what all the penalties will be, including fine amount, points, any license suspension, and any impact on your insurance;
  • Unlike a criminal charge, for a speeding ticket the Crown prosecutor does not have to prove that you had a ‘guilty mind’ and intended to speed. At a trial they just have to prove the act itself (eg. Seacil was going 90km/hour where the posted limit was 50 km/hr), along with basics like where and when it happened, and who did it. The Crown must show proof beyond a reasonable doubt. There are limited defences;
  • Fine payments – you can ask for time to pay the fine, and can also ask to do any license suspension at a time that is more convenient for you.

Finally, remember that speeding increases the risk of crashes, injury and death. So, please slow down, and drive safely.

For more information about speeding tickets, and other summary offence tickets:

This page gives legal information only.  If you need legal advice you should contact a lawyer.
March 2013

*Source of Halifax speeding ticket map: CBC News Nova Scotia

Tickets

What do speeding, littering on a beach, parking on the street during a snow storm, hunting while disqualified, creating a disturbance while on a trail, and being intoxicated in a public place have in common? If you do any of them, you might get a summary offence ticket.

This information is for adults (18 or over) who have a ticket.  For information about youth tickets (under 18) visit www.nsjustice.com.  This page gives legal information only, not legal advice. 

What is a summary offence ticket?

A summary offence ticket is one issued by a peace officer under Nova Scotia laws, such as the Motor Vehicle Act or the Liquor Control Act, or under some federal laws, such as the Canada Wildlife Act or National Parks Act.  It is not a criminal charge.  Examples of a summary offence ticket include a ticket for:

  • speeding;
  • operating an off-highway vehicle without a permit;
  • parking on the street during a snow storm;
  • littering on a beach or in a provincial park; 
  • constructing a building without a permit; 
  • being intoxicated in a public place; or
  • having open liquor in your car. 

What is a traffic ticket?

Generally there are two types of traffic tickets.   Provincial offences under the Nova Scotia Motor Vehicle Act generally apply to a moving vehicle. Examples include speeding, failing to obey traffic signs and improper passing. A parking infraction notice is either a provincial Motor Vehicle Act offence or a municipal by-law offence involving parking violations, such as parking at an expired meter, parking on private property and parking during a restricted time period.  

What is a liquor violation ticket?



A liquor violation is an offence under the Nova Scotia Liquor Control Act. These offences include supplying alcohol to minors, public intoxication and having open liquor in a car.

Do you have to give your name and address to the police officer writing the ticket?

Yes. If you are stopped for a traffic violation, you must give the officer your name and address, the name and address of the vehicle's owner, your driver's licence and the car registration. You should also show proof of insurance.  If the officer is writing a ticket for a liquor violation you should give him or her your name and address. Click here to read more about "You and the Police".

How do I dispute a ticket?

If you got a ticket before April 1 2011 and you want to dispute the ticket you must go to court on the date and time on the ticket and go in front of a judge or justice of the peace to plead not guilty.  You will be given a trial date. 

If you got a ticket on or after April 1 2011 and you want to dispute the ticket you must go in person to the court listed on your ticket, or to any Provincial Court, and speak with court staff to file a form called a Notice of Intention to appear in court. You have to do this before the due date given on the front of your ticket. Once you have filed the Notice of Intention form, court staff will notify you of your trial date.  Go to www.nsjustice.com for more information.

On your trial date you must go to court and either present your own defence or have a lawyer represent you.  

If you are defending yourself, take some time before your court date to decide what you are going to say and whether you have witnesses or other evidence to support your case. Think about what questions you want to ask witnesses. If you think that a witness might not turn up you should arrange with the court administration office to have them subpoenaed (ordered) to come to court.   Do this well before your court date.

If the Crown has witnesses you will be able to ask them questions. This is called cross-examination.

You might want to attend court before your hearing date, just to watch some trials and get a feel for how the process works.
 

 

Click here  to read 'Going to Provincial Court', which gives more information about preparing for a trial in Provincial Court.

What if I need time to pay, or cannot pay the fine?

If you want to plead guilty to the offence, but make a submission to the court about the penalty (for example, ask for time to pay the fine), you must appear in court in front of a justice of the peace or judge. If you are convicted of the offence after a trial, you can make a submission to the justice of the peace or judge about the penalty when you are sentenced.

 For example, you may ask the justice of the peace or judge

  • for extra time to pay the fine, or
  • to reduce the fine. 

Nova Scotia's Remission of Penalties Act allows a judge to 'forgive' part or all of a provincial fine if the offender can show that he or she cannot reasonably afford to pay the fine. For example, if you and your family would suffer serious financial hardship if you are required to pay the fine. 

 

You may qualify for the Fine Option Program. The Fine Option Program involves doing volunteer work to pay off a fine.  The program is only available for certain types of offences.  It is not available for Motor Vehicle Act offences. For more information about the Fine Option Program :

If you have unpaid motor vehicle fines you may be prevented from renewing your driver's licence and registration. 

 

Go to www.nsjustice.com for more information, or contact your nearest Provincial Court by calling the Provincial Court Contact Information Line at 1 877 445-4012.

 

How do I pay the fine?

For information about fine payment:

  • visit the Nova Scotia Department of Justice Online Services website at www.nsjustice.com, or
  • call the Nova Scotia Provincial Court Contact Information Line at 1-877-445-4012,
  • go to any Provincial Court to make your payment. You will find Provincial Court contact information online at www.courts.ns.ca , or look under 'Courts' in the government blue pages of your telephone book.

 

What happens if I don't pay the fine by the due date on my ticket, or don't show up in court on the required date?

If you do not pay your fine by the due date on your ticket, or you do not show up in court on your court date, you may be convicted of the offence without a hearing.

A judge might also issue a warrant for your arrest.

Contact the court as soon as possible if you are unable to go to court on the required date.  Go to www.courts.ns.ca
 for Provincial Court locations, or look under 'Courts' in the government blue pages of the telephone book for court contact information. 

 

I was convicted because I did not pay the fine by the due date on my ticket, what can I do?

If you were convicted because you did not pay the fine in time, and you want to

  • plead not guilty and have a trial, or
  • plead guilty, and make a submission about the penalty,

you have 60 days from the date you were convicted to go to the court to speak with court staff and ask to have your conviction set aside (cancelled). You will then get a court date for your trial, or  to make a submission about the penalty.  This process applies to tickets given on or after April 1 2011.

 
See the next question if it has been more than 60 days since you were convicted. 

 

I was convicted because I did not show up in court on my trial date, what can I do?

If you were convicted because you did not show up in court on your trial date and you still want to have a trial, or plead guilty, but make a submission about the penalty, you must apply to court to appear in front of a justice of the peace or judge and show that you:

  •   have a defence to the offence you have been charged with
  • have a reasonable excuse for not showing up on your trial date, and
  • acted within a reasonable time

The same process applies if you were convicted because you did not pay your fine by the due date on your ticket, and it has been more than 60 days since the conviction. The process applies to tickets given on or after April 1 2011.

Contact the Provincial Court for more information.

 

Is the ticket still valid if my name is wrong or other information is incorrect?

If information on the ticket is incorrect it doesn't mean that you can ignore the ticket. You will still have to go to court to plead not guilty.

A minor spelling or typographical error does not invalidate a ticket. However, if your name is seriously misspelled and this puts your identity into doubt, you may have grounds to challenge the ticket. Also, if the ticket contains incorrect information concerning the date and location of the offence, or does not adequately describe what you have been charged with, you may have grounds to challenge the ticket.

The information that the Crown Attorney presents to the court must be consistent with the information set out in the ticket. The prosecution may be allowed minor amendments to the information on the ticket. However, if the ticket is full of errors, it may not be accepted as reliable evidence.

Is the ticket still valid if the police officer doesn't sign it?

When an officer gives you a provincial summary offence ticket, other than a parking infraction ticket, the officer will print his or her name on the portion that he or she gives you. Once the officer has given you your copy of the ticket, the officer will sign the affidavit of service at the bottom of the police and court copies.   The affidavit states that the officer personally delivered the ticket to you (the Defendant).  The court copy of the ticket will have the officer's signature, and will be used as proof of service (proof that the ticket was given to you) in court.  Your copy would not have the officer's signature on it.

When issuing a parking infraction ticket, the officer must certify how the ticket was served and the date of service. The officer can complete the ticket and sign it by electronic means.
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Does the police officer have to give me a warning the first time?

No, the officer can give you a ticket if he or she has reasonable and probable grounds to believe that you committed the offence. There is no requirement that the officer give you a warning.

If I get a ticket, do I have a criminal record?

You do not get a criminal record if you are convicted of an offence under a provincial or municipal law such as traffic or liquor offences, or parking violations. However, a record of convictions for summary ticket offences, such as traffic or liquor offences, may appear during a CPIC (Canadian Police Information Centre) or JEIN (Justice Enterprise Information Network) search. Although not a criminal record, this information can be used at sentencing if you are later convicted of other offences.

You only get a criminal record for conviction of offences under the Criminal Code of Canada and certain other federal laws such as the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. This is what most people refer to as a Criminal Record - it is a record of convictions for criminal offences.

Where can I get more information?

  • review 'Going to Provincial Court', which provides an overview of the court process.
  • your local Provincial Court can provide information about issues such as court scheduling and fine payment.  Visit www.courts.ns.ca  for Provincial Court contact information, or look under 'Courts' in the government blue pages of the telephone book
  • call the Nova Scotia Provincial Court Contact Information Line at 1 877 445-4012
  • Visit the Nova Scotia Department of Justice Online Services at www.nsjustice.com
  • Call LISNS' Legal Information Line at 1 800 665-9779 or (902) 455-3135

If you need legal advice, contact a lawyer.

 

votre première comparution en cour criminelle

Si vous faites face à des poursuites criminelles, vous devriez demander un avis juridique dès que possible. Cette page vous donne des renseignements généraux sur la façon d’obtenir un avis juridique avant votre première comparution devant la court.

J’ai reçu un avis de comparaître en cour, est-ce que je dois consulter un avocat?

Oui. Si vous ne consultez pas un avocat avant de vous présenter en cour, ou si vous n’avez pas de rendez-vous de fixé avec un avocat, vous vous privez de l’importante possibilité de faire une bonne impression au juge. Dès votre comparution en cour, vous voulez convaincre le juge que vous prenez cette cause au sérieux et que vous avez fait votre part pour vous préparer adéquatement à comparaître. N’attendez pas la journée de la comparution, ou même un ou deux jours avant celle-ci, pour vous chercher un avocat. Les conseils d’un avocat peuvent vous aider à vous préparer à la comparution, à comprendre ce qui se passera en cour et à prendre des décisions concernant votre cause.

Qu’arrive-t-il si je ne communique pas avec un avocat?

Si vous allez de l’avant sans consulter un avocat, vous risquez de nuire à votre cause ou de vous désavantager en prenant de mauvaises décisions ou en commetant des erreurs pendant que vous assurerez votre propre défense. Si, une fois rendu en cour, vous décidez que vous voulez discuter avec un avocat, il vous faudra persuader le juge d’ajourner (c.- à-d. de remettre) l’audience à une date ultérieure pour vous donner le temps de consulter un avocat. Le juge voudra savoir pourquoi vous n’avez pas demandé d’avis juridique à l’avance.

Puis-je demander à l’Aide juridique de m’aider?

L’Aide juridique pourrait accepter de vous aider dans deux situations :

Premièrement, si vous êtes accusé d’une infraction criminelle, l’Aide juridique pourrait accepter de vous représenter en se basant sur deux critères : le type d’infraction en cause et votre situation financière. Vous devriez appeler le bureau local d’Aide juridique dès que possible pour demander de l’aide. Vous trouverez le numéro de l’Aide juridique dans les pages blanches de l’annuaire téléphonique sous la rubrique << Nova Scotia Legal Aid >> ou visitez le site fr.nslegalaid.ca. Si vous avez un rendez-vous de fixé avec un avocat de l’Aide juridique, dites-le au juge quand vous vous présenterez en cour. Le juge peut alors ajourner (c.- à-d. remettre) la première audience à une date ultérieure pour vous permettre de rencontrer d’abord votre avocat.

Deuxièmement, à Halifax et à Dartmouth, l’Aide juridique fournit des avocats commis d’office à la Cour provinciale. Ces avocats d’office peuvent aider quiconque n’a pas d’avocat, mais a besoin d’un avis juridique ou d’aide pour faire face à une poursuite criminelle. Vous pouvez obtenir l’aide d’un avocat d’office même si vous n’êtes pas admissible à l’Aide juridique. Ces avocats ne peuvent toutefois pas vous aider dans les cas d’infractions provinciales, notamment les excès de vitesse et la possession illégale d’alcool.

L’avocat d’office de l’Aide juridique peut vous donner un avis juridique, réviser le dossier du procureur de la Couronne ou discuter avec ce dernier en votre nom. Il peut également vous conseiller sur la façon de mener un procès, de vous adresser au juge, d’assigner des témoins et de présenter une preuve dans votre propre défense. L’avocat d’office peut aussi inscrire un plaidoyer en votre nom et faire des représentations sur la sentence si vous plaidez coupable. Il peut vous aider à opter pour le tribunal qui entendra votre cause, vous assister pour fixer les dates d’audience, et enfin, vouse aider à prendre un rendez-vous avec l’Aide juridique. Notez cependant que ces avocats sont là pour vous aider à franchir les premières étapes, non pas pour vous représenter au procès.

Les avocats commis d’office sont disponibles aux Cours provinciales d’Halifax et de Dartmouth du lundi au vendredi. Vous pouvez demander à un préposé de la réception de la cour de vous diriger vers les avocats commis d’office (appelés en anglais Duty Counsel). Vous pouvez joindre les avocats commis d’office au 420-7800.

Qu’est ce que je peux faire s’il n’y a pas d’avocats commis d’office dans ma région et que je ne suis pas admissible a l’Aide juridique?

Vous devriez quand même essayer de consulter un avocat avant de vous présenter devant la cour. Vous pouvez communiquer avec un avocat de pratique privée. À cet effet, consultez les pages jaunes de l’annuaire téléphonique sous la rubrique << Lawyers >>. Vous pouvez également appeler le Service de référence aux avocats (le Lawyer Referral Service) de la Legal Information Society et demander que l’on vous recommande un avocat. Les avocats participants vous donneront une consultation de 30 minutes moyennant un prix fixe de 20 $, plus les taxes. Pour joindre le Lawyer Referral Service, appelez le 455-3135, ou le 1 800 665-9779 sans frais en Nouvelle-Écosse.

Pour obtenir de l’information en français ainsi qu’une liste des juristes d’expression française en Nouvelle Écosse, veuillez communiquer avec l’Association des juristes d’expression française de la Nouvelle-Écosse (AJEFNE). L’AJEFNE est un organisme à but non lucratif fondé en 1994 pour promouvoir l’accès aux services juridiques pour la population acadienne et francophone de la Nouvelle-Écosse.
Téléphone : (902) 433-2085
site Web: www.ajefne.ns.ca

Est-ce que j’ai besoin de consulter un avocat si j’ai l’intention de plaider coupable?

Il est sage de demander un avis juridique même si vous avez l’intention de plaider coupable. Avant de plaider coupable, vous devriez être certain de comprendre les conséquences d’un tel plaidoyer. Selon l’infraction reprochée, la condamnation peut entraîner un emprisonnement. Vous pouvez vous retrouver avec un dossier criminel qui pourrait nuire à vos possibilités d’emploi ou à votre capacité de voyager à l’extérieur du Canada.

Est-ce que j’ai besoin d’un avis juridique si j’ai l’intention de plaider non coupable et de me représenter moi-même?

Oui. Un avocat peut vous donner des conseils sur votre situation, sur la façon de mener votre procès, d’assigner un témoin et de présenter une preuve dans le cadre de votre défense. Il ne faut pas prendre une poursuite criminelle à la légère. Si vous obtenez un avis juridique avant de vous présenter en cour, vous serez mieux préparé, comprendrez mieux vos droits et le déroulement du procès, et pourrez peut-être éviter de retarder l’audience de votre cause.

Pour obtenir de renseignements généraux sur le programme d’Aide juridique en Nouvelle-Écosse, veuillez consulter le site: fr.nslegalaid.ca/

Cette page web est commandité par la Commission d’aide juridique de la Nouvelle-Écosse.

You and the Police

Where do police get their powers?

A - The police enforce the criminal law and keep the peace. They are given specific powers to enable them to do this. Police powers are set out in federal laws, such as the Criminal Code of Canada, and in provincial laws, such as the Nova Scotia Motor Vehicle Act. The presence of police in the community helps ensure that laws are obeyed. They play a vital role in ensuring public safety, crime prevention and community safety.

The 'police' referred to here are municipal police and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP).

Do private security guards have the same powers as police?

A- No. Private security guards do not have powers over and above those of private citizens. They do not have the right to search you or your belongings without your consent. Sometimes, before you are allowed into a building or an event, a security guard may ask to search your purse or bags. You are free to refuse, but you may then be refused entry. Security guards have the same rights of arrest as private citizens. They must contact the police as soon as possible after the arrest.

Do I have to answer police questions if they stop me in the street?

A -Generally, the police do not have power to stop or question you without a reason.

If the police stop you in the street, you are under no legal obligation to answer their questions. You do not have to:

  • tell them your name or address;
  • explain what you are doing there;
  • produce identification such as a driver's licence; or
  • go with the police for further questioning or investigation unless they arrest you.

However, there is an exception, if the police want to give you a summary offence (a less serious offence) ticket or an appearance notice you should give them your name and address. If they want to write a ticket and you refuse to give your name and address, they may arrest you for obstructing them from carrying out their duties.

The police must have reason to believe you have committed an offence before they arrest you. They should not arrest you just because you refuse to answer their questions or give them information.

Although you do not have to help the police, it may make sense to co-operate with them if their request is reasonable. However, if you are being treated as a suspect, you should talk with a lawyer before you make any statement (written or verbal) to the police.

When can the police search me?

A - The police can legally search you if:

  • you agree to the search;
  • they have arrested you;
  • you are in a house or other building which is being searched for drugs, and they reasonably believe you have drugs on you; or
  • they reasonably believe you are carrying a prohibited or restricted weapon.

The Nova Scotia Liquor Control Act allows the police to search you, or your vehicle, if they suspect that you are carrying liquor illegally.

 

When can the police stop my car?

A -The police can stop your car for the purpose of carrying out their duties, for example, to give you a speeding ticket or to inspect for a valid safety certificate.

Both the Criminal Code and the Nova Scotia Motor Vehicle Act allow the police to stop a vehicle if they suspect that the driver is impaired.

The Nova Scotia Motor Vehicle Act says you must carry your driver's licence and vehicle registration, and show them to the police if they ask to see them. You should also be able to show proof of insurance.

When can the police search my car?

A - The police can search you car if:

  • you agree to the search;
  • they have a warrant (a piece of paper that gives them power to search) to search your vehicle; or
  • they reasonably believe that there are illegal drugs in the vehicle; or
  • they reasonably believe that you are illegally carrying firearms, weapons, ammunition or explosives.

The Nova Scotia Liquor Control Act allows the police to search you, or your vehicle, if they suspect that you are carrying liquor illegally.

When can the police search my home?

A - The police can search your home if:

  • you agree to the search; or
  • they have a search warrant.

The police may enter your home to arrest someone if they have:

  • reason to suspect that it is necessary to enter the home in order to prevent immediate bodily harm or death to any person and there is no time to get a warrant; or
  • reason to believe that there is evidence related to a serious offence in the house and it is necessary to enter the home to prevent the immediate loss or destruction of the evidence and there is no time to get a warrant.

If there is a 911 call from your home, when the police arrive they may insist on coming into your home to check that everyone is safe.

What are my rights if the police arrest me?

A - If the police ask you to go with them, you can ask them if you are under arrest. If you are under arrest you must go with them. If the police arrest you, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms requires them to tell you:

  • why you have been arrested;
  • that you have a right to talk to a lawyer; and give you a reasonable opportunity to contact one. They must also tell you that you can get free preliminary legal advice, and give you a number to call to get it. You should contact a lawyer as soon as possible.
  • that you do not have to say anything, but that anything you say may be used as evidence in court.

Do I have to give a statement to the police?

A - No, you do not have to give a statement to the police. You have a right to remain silent. However, it is usually a good idea to give them your name. Remember 'Statement' includes anything you say as well as written statements. Often police will videotape interviews. If you say anything, or make a written statement to the police, it may be used as evidence in court.

You have a right to talk with a lawyer. You should use that right. If you do not ask for legal help, the police may think you do not want it. If you want to talk with a lawyer, the police must give you a reasonable time to contact a lawyer, and must allow you to speak to the lawyer in private. If you do not understand what the police are saying to you because, for example, you do not speak English very well, tell the police and ask for an interpreter or translator if you need one.

What are Lie Detectors?

A -The technical term for a 'lie detector' test is a polygraph. A polygraph cannot tell if a person is lying. It measures the level of stress a person is experiencing as he or she is asked a series of questions. The polygraph measures changes to the person's vital signs, such as blood pressure and pulse rate. You do not have to take a polygraph even if you are charged with an offence.

The results of polygraphs cannot be used in court, however, the answers given during a polygraph might be admitted into court in some situations.

When can the police breathalyse me?

A - There are two types of breath tests that police use, the Alco-Meter and the Breathalyser.

  • The Alco-Meter is a pre-screening test (sometimes called a roadside screening device), which gives a pass/fail caution indication. If the police have a reasonable suspicion that you have been drinking alcohol they can stop your car and demand you provide a breath sample for a roadside screening device. They do not have to believe you are impaired. You do not have a right to speak with a lawyer before you provide the sample. However, if there is a delay in giving the test, you may have a right to speak with a lawyer first.
  • The Breathalyser is more precise than the Alco-meter. It provides a blood alcohol percentage, and determines whether the blood alcohol level is over .08 (80 milligrams of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood), which is the legal limit under the Criminal Code. If the police have reasonable grounds to believe you are impaired, they have a right to ask you to go with them to the police station to take a Breathalyser test.

If the police ask you to take a Breathalyser test, you must go with them to provide the sample.  If the police ask you to take a Breathalyser, they must inform you that you have a right to talk with a lawyer, and give you reasonable opportunity to do so.

It is a criminal offence to refuse to provide a sample without a reasonable excuse. The fact that you were not driving the vehicle is not, by itself, a reasonable excuse. For example, you had pulled into your driveway and turned of the engine by the time the police arrived.

If your blood alcohol level is over .08, or you refuse to provide a breath sample:

Nova Scotia's Motor Vehicle Act allows the police to take your license, and give you a temporary seven-day license and notice of intention to suspend your license for 3 months, if they have reason to believe, based on a blood or breath sample, that your blood alcohol level is over .08 (80 milligrams of alcohol in 100 milliliters of blood), or you refuse to provide a breath sample. You may appeal the suspension to the Registrar of Motor Vehicles.

If you get a 'warn' on a roadside screening test, or your breath test is between .05 and .08:

Roadside license suspensions under Nova Scotia's Motor Vehicle Act for drivers who get a 'warn' on a roadside screening test, or whose breath test shows a blood alcohol level between .05 and .08 are:

  •     7 days for a first suspension within 10 years;
  •     15 days for a second suspension within 10 years;
  •     30 days for a third or subsequent suspension within 10 years.

License suspensions under Nova Scotia's Motor Vehicle Act are in addition to any criminal or other charges that may result from the same incident.

You can also be impaired as a result of taking illegal or prescription drugs.

Can the police take my photograph and fingerprints?

A - If you are charged with an indictable (serious) or hybrid offence, the police have a right to take your photograph and fingerprints. A hybrid offence is one where the Crown must decide whether to treat the offence as indictable or summary (less serious). If you are not sure whether the offence you have been charged with is an indictable, hybrid, or summary offence you should talk with a lawyer.

If you have a document (eg. Appearance Notice, Summons, Promise to Appear) requiring that you go to the police station for fingerprints and photograph you must go.  If you do not go you could be arrested, held, and charged with another offence.

Photographs and fingerprints will be kept on police files. If you are found not guilty of the offence, you can ask the police to destroy them.

Can the police keep me in custody?

A - The police can take you into custody if they have arrested you. They must either release you within 24 hours or, if they do not release you, they must bring you before a judge or Justice of the Peace (JP) within 24 hours and without unreasonable delay. You may be in police custody longer if you are arrested on a weekend and a judge or JP is not available.

The judge or JP may release you with or without conditions, or, order that you remain in custody. See also the FAQs on Bail.

The police can also take you into custody if you are drunk in public. Usually they will keep you in custody until you sober up (usually overnight).

If you are taken into custody, you have a right to talk with a lawyer and you should use this right.

If I disagree with the police arresting me what should I do?

A - You can tell the police that you did nothing wrong but it is not a good idea to fight them, as you may be charged with resisting arrest or possibly assaulting a police officer.

There is little point in arguing with the police if after telling them that they cannot do something, they do it anyway. You can ask the officer for his or her name and badge number. In court, the judge will decide whether your rights were denied.

How do I make a complaint against a police officer?

A - If you are stopped or arrested or you or your property is searched and you feel that your rights have been violated, talk with a lawyer. If you do not have a lawyer to represent you when you go to court, you can tell the judge why you think your rights were violated.

You can also make a formal complaint with or without a lawyer.  The RCMP and municipal police forces have procedures for dealing with complaints against a police officer. They have information pamphlets on the procedures and information online. You can also get information from a lawyer.

Complaints about municipal police officers :

You can file a complaint with any member of the police force or the Nova Scotia Police Complaints Commissioner's Office.
For complaints about municipal police, usually you must lay a complaint within 6 months of the incident that you are complaining about.

Nova Scotia Police Complaints Commissioner's Office
1690 Hollis Street, 3rd Floor
PO Box 1573
Halifax, NS B3J 2Y3
Phone: 902.424.3246
Web:  www.novascotia.ca/opcc/

Complaints about an RCMP officer:

The head of your local RCMP detachment, or

You can also make a complaint through the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP on-line, by mail or fax. The Commission is an independent agency that is not part of the RCMP. For more information call toll free 1-800-665-6878, or visit their website at www.crcc-ccetp.gc.ca
For more information:

This information was developed with the support of a financial contribution from the Department of Justice Canada.

Last reviewed: January 2016

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