When you or someone you know is accused of a serious crime and held in custody, they will likely attend a bail hearing. Bail hearings are simple. It is a necessary process wherein a judge decides whether one should be kept in jail or return to their community while the courts process their case. As simple as that sounds, a lot can happen during a bail hearing.

Under the Criminal Code of Canada, you have the right to a bail hearing within 24 hours of arrest if a judge is present. If no judge is available, you have the right to a bail hearing when one becomes available. After a bail hearing is scheduled, you may be taken from the police station or jail to the courthouse. You will be held in a cell until the bail hearing or linked by Internet video communication to the court.

Let’s learn about what happens at a bail hearing:

Speaking with a lawyer

Before your bail hearing, you will have a chance to speak with your criminal lawyer. If you do not have a lawyer, a free lawyer will be provided that day.

During this lawyer consult, there’s not much to do except answer a lawyer’s questions and familiarize them with your case details. The lawyer will represent you during the hearing and make the strongest argument to grant you release.

Prepare a bail plan

As you appear before the courts, you will come up with a bail plan. Discuss with your lawyer what this will look like. A bail plan identifies where you will be living, who will supervise you, what release conditions you request (i.e. a reasonable curfew relating to work or school commitments), relevant information about your job or school, and how you plan on getting to and from court dates.

Assuming you are granted bail, the judge has to be certain you can make it to your court date and that you do not threaten the public.

What a bail hearing is like

During a bail hearing, the Crown will read the crimes you’re accused of. In some cases, they may call a witness forward to argue why you shouldn’t be allowed out on bail. This is typically the investigating officer. Do not expect charges to be raised.

After this, your lawyer will call you to the stand to convince the court that, if released on bail, all bail conditions will be met. In addition, you will attend your court dates. The Crown may ask questions afterwards. Then, a judge will decide the verdict, granting bail or keeping you in jail.

There is no ‘guilty’ or ‘innocent’ verdict

A bail hearing’s judgment says nothing about guilt or innocence. The purpose of a bail hearing is primarily to decide what happens to the accused while their case is being processed. There is no argument about guilt or innocence. How a judge rules in a bail hearing does not directly affect the court case.

If someone is deemed a threat to the public or others, they will likely be taken into custody. If a lawyer can argue their client isn’t a threat, they will likely be allowed to return home until their case is tried.

What happens if you qualify for bail

If you get bail, a court order will allow you to stay in the community under certain rules and conditions. If the terms are broken, you will be returned to jail. Rules and conditions must be followed.

What happens if you do not qualify for bail

As the court considers the seriousness of what you’re being charged with, your record, and the proposed bail plan, the judge may not grant bail. Instead, the judge will send you back to jail to await trial.

If you are not released, you cannot appeal and you will not be granted a second bail hearing. You will be returned to jail until your trial concludes. Any options available to you, as limited as they are, will be explained by your lawyer at that time.

What to do after a bail hearing

There is no reason to dwell on a bail hearing. Whatever happens after a bail hearing, it’s time to prepare for your trial. Speak with a lawyer, discuss your case, and begin strategizing a defence as you look ahead to your trial date, where your guilt or innocence relating to the accused crimes will be determined.