The Modern Bail Hearing: 6 Things to Know
As with all aspects of our lives, the COVID-19 pandemic as has impacted how the court system operates. In respect to bail hearings, gone are the days of accused persons, sureties, lawyers and even justices attending court in person. Bail hearings are now held “virtually”, via audio or video conferencing technology such as Zoom.
If a friend or relative has been arrested, below is an overview of what you can expect:
1. The accused will not be brought to court in person.
If an accused is newly arrested, they will appear remotely from the police station. If the accused already had a first court appearance, all future attendances will be from the jail at which they are held.
2. If you are a surety do not go to the courthouse.
While you will be allowed entry into the courthouse, in all likelihood no one will be present to assist you and/or you will be denied entrance into the courtroom where the bail hearing is being heard. That is because the expectation is that the bail hearing will be heard virtually, not in person.
3. Obtaining Information About Your Friend or Family Member.
A summary of the criminal allegation is contained in a document called a “synopsis”, which is provided by the police to the Crown attorney. If you have retained a bail hearing lawyer, he/she will communicate with the Crown attorney (either by email or phone) about securing the release of the accused on consent or, if no agreement is reached, the scheduling of a contested bail hearing. If you do not have your own lawyer, Legal Aid duty counsel lawyers are available to assist.
4. The Surety Declaration Form.
If you are acting as a surety, your lawyer should assist you in the preparation of a Surety Declaration, which details your personal information (address, phone number etc.) and answers to relevant questions (such as the nature of your relationship with the accused). Your lawyer will then confirm the surety’s identity by viewing a piece of photo identification and witness the signing of the declaration, which can be done in person or remotely using your cell phone. The declaration is then shared with the Crown attorney and filed with the court.
5. Importance of Surety Preparation.
This is one aspect of the bail process that has not changed. In fact, there is nothing more important than surety preparation with your bail hearing lawyer. That is because, while you cannot control the number of charges or the nature of the allegations, you can the control how prepared you are as a surety. Testifying in court can be an intimidating experience. The Crown attorney will ask tough questions, especially if the charges are serious. With proper preparation, the surety will be in the best position to answer those questions and give your friend or relative the best chance at obtaining bail.
See my article: 5 Keys to a Successful Bail Hearing
6. The Bail Hearing.
While the bail hearing is conducted virtually rather than in person, the bail hearing procedure itself remains the same:
- The conferencing technology will allow everyone to see and hear each other. The accused will be either at the police station or jail, while the justice, lawyers, sureties will be in their own locations.
- The Crown attorney will read the allegations contained in the synopsis and any other relevant background information. (While witnesses can be called, this is extremely rare.)
- Your lawyer or duty counsel will be given the opportunity to ask any questions about the allegations.
- The sureties will testify virtually (via their phone or computer), first being questioned by the show cause lawyer and then by the Crown attorney.
- After hearing arguments from both sides, the justice will make a decision as to whether bail has granted.
HERE TO HELP
If you would like to meet with me to discuss your case or any legal problems that you are facing, please contact me to set up a free consultation.
Call 249-266-4222 for an immediate free consultation.
While the right to be released on bail applies to all criminal charges (meaning no offence, no matter how serious, is excluded), the practical reality is that being released on bail is much more difficult when you are facing firearm related charges.