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What happens at a criminal trial?

Reviewed by
Nov 3, 2021

At a trial, if you plead “not guilty”, it is the Crown’s job to prove you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The Crown will present evidence and can call witnesses. You (your lawyer) will be given a chance to cross-examine (question) these witnesses if you so choose. Once the Crown has called all their witnesses you will be given the opportunity to call witness, testify and present evidence.

You do not need to present your case or testify if you do not wish to do so. You are innocent until proven guilty. You do not have to prove that you are innocent. Your task is to raise doubt for the judge or jury regarding the evidence presented against you and where possible, to provide evidence that you did not commit the crime.

Sometimes issues about the admissibility of evidence come up if you do not think the evidence should be used. After the evidence has been presented, both you and the Crown make final arguments called submissions based on the evidence.

After hearing the evidence and submissions, the judge makes a decision. If you are found not guilty (acquitted), you can leave. If you are found guilty (convicted), then you must wait for the judge to sentence you. A guilty person is held in custody until sentencing is determined and pronounced in court.