5. Understand your options

Your criminal case will only come to an end when one of these happens:

  • The Crown withdraws or stays your charges
  • The judge dismisses your charges
  • The judge sentences you after you
  • The judge sentences you after you’re found guilty at a
  • The judge or jury finds you not guilty at a trial

To get to one of these outcomes, your options are:

  1. Convince the Crown to withdraw or stay your charges
  2. Plead guilty
  3. Plead not guilty and have a trial

Convincing the Crown to Withdraw or Stay your charges

In most cases, the best outcome for you is for the Crown to withdraw your charges. The Crown must withdraw your charges if:

  • they don’t have enough to prove you’re guilty
  • they don’t think it’s in the “public interest” to continue your case

You or your lawyer can discuss this with the Crown outside the courtroom. These meetings outside the courtroom are called “Crown Pre-Trials” or “CPTs” or “pre-trial meetings”. Sometimes the Crown won’t speak to you without a lawyer. If that happens, a Duty Counsel lawyer may be able to help you.

For charges that are less serious, the Crown may offer you diversion. Diversion allows you to take responsibility for your actions without going through the formal court system. This means your court case is put on hold while you attend a program, or take a course, or complete other tasks away from the court. Once you successfully finish your program, course, or other tasks, then the Crown will withdraw or stay your charges. In some cases, the Crown may want you to sign a before they withdraw the charges.

Pleading guilty

If you plead guilty, the judge will give you a . Most sentences include a criminal conviction and a criminal record.

You should not plead guilty if you didn’t commit the crime you’ve been charged with. You should speak to a lawyer about your options before you decide to plead guilty. A lawyer can help you understand possible defences if you choose to have a trial. They can also help you understand the likely sentences and other effects on your life if you plead guilty.

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