An offender who receives an absolute discharge is deemed not to have
been convicted of the offence. However, since the offender pleaded or
was found guilty, he or she will still have a federal criminal record.
A judge can only order a discharge if it is in the offender's best interests
and not contrary to the public interest. A discharge cannot be given
if the offence carries a minimum punishment or is punishable by imprisonment
for 14 years or life.
A finding of not guilty in a criminal case.
A law passed by Parliament or a provincial legislature. Also called
A judicial proceeding in either civil or criminal law.
A temporary postponement of court.
A sworn, written declaration that a certain set of facts is true.
A non-religious oath given before testifying.
To suggest that something is true without necessarily being able to
Examination by a higher court of the decision of a lower court or tribunal.
The higher court may affirm, vary or reverse the original decision.
A notice issued by a police officer requiring the accused's appearance
before a judge or justice of the peace to answer a charge. An appearance
notice is typically given instead of arresting the accused.
The process in criminal law by which the accused's name is called, the
charge is read, and the accused pleads guilty or not guilty. If the
offence is one that gives the accused a choice, he or she will also
elect at the arraignment to be tried by a judge or by a judge and jury
in a higher court, or by a judge in a lower court.
Monetary or other security put up by the accused or by someone on the
accused's behalf to insure the accused's appearance at trial.
A court order empowering the police to arrest a person. These warrants
are most often issued in cases of contempt of court, failure to appear
or where an indictment is being laid.
Beyond a Reasonable Doubt:
This is the rigorous standard of proof that the Crown prosecutor is
required to meet in a criminal case. This means that the evidence must
be so complete and convincing that any reasonable doubts as to the guilt
of the accused are erased from the mind of the judge or jury. The Crown
must prove each element of the offence beyond a reasonable doubt.
Cause of Action:
The legal basis underlying the plaintiff's civil suit against the defendant.
An action or lawsuit brought by a representative plaintiff(s) on behalf
of a group of people who have been similarly affected.
An action brought by a defendant against a plaintiff. The defendant's
counterclaim is dealt with in the same trial as the plaintiff's claim.
Similar to an absolute discharge, except that the offender is subject
to specified conditions contained in a probation order. If the offender
violates these conditions, the discharge may be revoked. A conviction
will then be entered, and an appropriate sentence imposed.
Contempt of Court:
A criminal offence that typically involves interfering with the administration
of justice, ignoring the rules of court or defying a judge.
Evidence that confirms or strengthens evidence already presented to
The lawyer representing the Crown in a criminal prosecution.
Monetary compensation for financial or property losses, emotional or
physical injuries, loss of earnings, and costs of care.
The person sued in a civil action or charged with a criminal offence.
Dual Procedure Offence:
In Canada, all criminal offences are divided into one of three categories:
summary conviction, indictable, and dual procedure offences. In a dual
procedure (hybrid or Crown electable) offence, the Crown prosecutor
has the choice to proceed by summary conviction or by indictment. The
distinction between summary conviction and indictable offences is based
on the formality of the procedures used to try them. Once the Crown
has made its decision, the offence is subject to the normal rules of
procedure for a summary conviction or indictable offence.
Election by the Accused:
The Criminal Code gives accused charged with certain offences the choice
to be tried by judge and jury or by a judge alone in a higher court,
or by a provincial judge in a lower court.
Election by the Crown:
In cases involving dual procedure offences, the procedure by which the
Crown decides to prosecute a case as a summary conviction offence or
as an indictable offence. The Crown is more likely to proceed by indictment
if the circumstances of the offence are more serious than a typical
case, or if the accused is a repeat offender.
Examination for Discovery:
In civil actions, the parties are given an opportunity to question each
other prior to trial to discover the details of the other side's case.
The examination for discovery allows the parties to narrow the issues
and focus the trial on contested matters.
A writ issued by a judge ordering the release of a person who is being
detained or imprisoned unlawfully.
The category of criminal offences that are subject to formal and complex
procedures. For example, most indictable offences give the accused the
right to elect to be tried in a higher court by a judge or by a judge
and jury. Generally, the indictable offences are more serious than summary
conviction offences, and carry lengthy maximum sentences. For example,
impaired driving causing death is an indictable offence, and is subject
to a maximum sentence of 14 years imprisonment.
When someone reasonably believes that a person has committed an indictable
offence, he or she may lay an information in writing and under oath
before a judge or justice of the peace. If the judge or justice of the
peace concludes that there is sufficient evidence of an offence, he
or she may issue either a summons or warrant for the accused's arrest.
A court order restraining a party from doing some act (prohibitory injunction),
or requiring the performance of some act (mandatory injunction). Injunctions
may be permanent or temporary.
A sentence of imprisonment that is served in intervals (usually weekends),
over a period of time. Under the Criminal Code, a judge can only impose
an intermittent sentence if the term of imprisonment is 90 days or less.
The offender must comply with the conditions of a probation order when
not in confinement.
Judicial Interim Release:
A judicial order releasing the accused from custody prior to trial.
The release is unconditional unless the prosecutor shows cause to impose
certain conditions. A judicial interim release cannot be granted for
certain serious criminal offences, like murder, mutiny or treason.
The process of trying a dispute in court.
A program that assists those who require a lawyer but cannot afford
one. In some provinces, legal aid may only be available for more serious
In most circumstances, an inmate will be credited with one day of earned
remission for every two days served in prison. Mandatory parole is the
term used to describe situations in which the inmate is released as
a result of his or her accumulated earned remission. Inmates released
under mandatory parole are subject to mandatory supervision by a parole
The identification number assigned by the police to a particular crime
The release of an offender from prison prior to the end of his or her
sentence. The offender continues to serve the sentence outside of prison
under the supervision of a parole officer, and must obey specific conditions
or risk returning to custody.
Negotiations between the defence counsel and Crown prosecutor concerning
the charges and pleas of the accused. The Crown may accept a guilty
plea on a lesser charge instead of incurring the expense and time of
a trial on the original charge. The Crown may also agree to make a joint
submission to the judge on the appropriate sentence, if the accused
agrees to plead guilty.
Prior to sentencing, the judge may order a probation officer to prepare
a pre-sentence report. The report summarizes the accused's family life,
personal situation and background. Pre-sentence reports are used to
help judges decide on an appropriate sentence for the offender.
A sentence that requires the offender to obey certain stipulated conditions.
Some conditions, like keeping the peace and being of good behaviour,
are compulsory in every probation order. Others conditions are left
to the judge's discretion. Probation is only available where the offence
does not carry a mandatory jail term. The probation order can be no
more than three years in duration. It is a federal criminal offence
to violate any term of probation without a reasonable excuse.
The Prothonotary is the Chief Clerk of the Civil Court. The word is
of Greek origin, and it means "First Clerk." All civil litigation
is filed with the Prothonotary. The Prothonotary or one of her/his deputies
must be present in court during all civil cases to administer oaths
to witnesses and juries and keep track of exhibits. All of the records
maintained by the Prothonotary are available to the public unless they
are sealed by the Court.
A formal promise made by the accused to appear and respond to criminal
charges. Depending on the circumstances, the accused may enter the recognizance
before a police officer or a magistrate.
A form of legislation enacted under the authority of a statute by the
Governor-General in Council (the federal cabinet), the Lieutenant-Governor
in Council (a provincial cabinet), a Minister or government official,
or an administrative board. Typically, the regulations will set out
detailed provisions that are not essential to include in the statute.
This power to enact regulations permits the government to act expeditiously
and introduce changes without having to enact a new statute.
The category of criminal offences that are subject to less formal and
complex procedures. Summary offences are tried by justices or provincial
court judges. They are usually less serious crimes than indictable offences
and carry lower penalties.
A judge may choose to put an offender on probation and suspend the imposition
of the sentence. If the offender breaches probation, the judge may order
the offender returned to court, and impose a jail term for the original
offence. As well, the offender may be charged with the federal criminal
offence of breaching probation. In issuing a suspended sentence, the
court must consider the accused's age and character, the nature of the
offence and the circumstances surrounding its commission.
Statements made in court by a witness under oath or affirmation.
A civil action arising from a wrongful act or omission, in which a plaintiff
may sue a defendant for damages.
A written order of a court.
Youth Criminal Justice Act :
A federal statute that establishes how young people will be treated,
tried and sentenced for criminal offences. The Act applies to suspects
who are over 12 years old and under 18. In certain limited circumstances
involving very serious offences, those who are 14 or older may be transferred
to adult court. Among other things, the Youth Criminal Justice Act dramatically
limits the maximum punishment that might otherwise apply for an offence,
and creates special record-keeping provisions to protect young offenders
from the adverse publicity and consequences of having a criminal record.