Bail hearings are when a Judge or Justice of the Peace decides if a person arrested for a criminal offence should be released before their trial, either with a monetary bail amount, either with or without a cash deposit, or on a form of promise to return for court. Understanding how bail hearings and bail work in Alberta courts can be complicated. If you’ve been charged with a criminal offence and are going through a bail hearing, read this guide and contact a criminal defence lawyer for the best outcome.
What is Bail?
According to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, every person who is charged with a criminal offence has the right to reasonable bail unless the Crown shows just cause. Bail is also known as Judicial Interim Release which means the release of a person who is charged with a crime before their trial. This release can come with a set of conditions and restrictions. Bail is dictated by the severity of the crimes, whether or not the accused has been found guilty of criminal activity in the past, and any other circumstances that the Justice of the Peace determines applicable. In order to be declined reasonable bail, the Crown must show cause in the majority of cases. The grounds to be denied bail are generally whether the accused person will attend court, and whether they are a threat to commit additional offences if released.
The right to ‘reasonable’ bail means the terms of the bail such as payment required or restrictions and conditions of a person’s bail. This term is meant to protect those who are accused of a criminal offence from unreasonable conditions. Bail conditions are meant to be tailored to the specific circumstances and risks associated with the release of the accused. For example, a person accused of shoplifting would likely receive less restrictions and monetary requirements for bail than a person accused of aggravated assault. According to the Canadian Criminal Code, bail “may ‘only be imposed to the extent that they are necessary’ to address concerns related to the statutory criteria for detention and to ensure that the accused can be released’, and ‘must not be imposed to change an accused person’s behavior or to punish an accused person.’” This is because bail is not a punishment, but a restriction of release before a trial. All Canadians are presumed innocent until proven guilty in court, and that principal governs and informs the right to Judicial Interim Release.
What is a Bail Hearing?
A bail hearing in Alberta is the hearing where a Justice of the Peace or Provincial Court Judge will determine the reasonable bail for an accused and if there is just cause for an accused to not be released. The Crown will present evidence on why it would be just to not provide bail — the gravity of the crime, past criminal offenses, testimonies, etc. This hearing is not meant to determine whether you are guilty or not, but instead they are a means to determine if under the circumstances you can be temporarily released until a criminal trial. The Justice of the Peace or Judge will decide if there are is just causes to be detained, and if you are required to pay a cash bail as well as the conditions and restrictions of your release.
What are Bail Conditions and Restrictions?
Although bail, when portrayed in the media, is often depicted as a monetary payment, cash bail is often only used in exceptional circumstances. Cash bail is required to be tailored to address the concerns of release as well as not be beyond the means of the person accused. If you are required to pay a cash bail, you will not be released until that payment is made. If your bail is not breached and your criminal charges are resolved, the cash bail will be returned to the person who posted it. For the most part, bail tends to be lists of restrictions and conditions that a person must follow to be allowed to remain free before their trial. Conditions and restrictions include (but are not limited to):
- Not being allowed to contact certain people
- Not being allowed to visit certain places or attend events
- Not being allowed to leave a city or province
- Having to stay home at certain times (for example, a nighttime curfew)
- To attend counselling or treatment (including taking medication)
- To not use certain websites or even access the internet
Do You Need a Lawyer for a Bail Hearing?
An experienced criminal defence lawyer is important to have for both the trial and the bail hearing. This is because your lawyer will be able to speak on your behalf for your release. Defence lawyers are equipped to ensure you apply for reasonable bail, and will be with you every step of the way for the trial.
Brian McGlashan of McGlashan and Company has decades of experience in criminal defence in Alberta. He has spent years helping Albertans with their criminal cases and will help ensure you get the best results. If you have been accused of a criminal offence and are facing a bail hearing, call Brian McGlashan,