Absolute Discharge.

An Absolute Discharge is a finding of guilt that does not result in a criminal conviction.  The finding of guilt occurs either after trial, or by early guilty plea by an accused.  Information relating to the discharge is removed from law enforcement computers after a period of one year.


In the Canadian justice system, a person charged with a criminal offence is often referred to as the “Accused.”  This is in contrast to the American justice system where the term “Defendant” is used more frequently.


An acquittal is a verdict following a trial that finds the Accused not guilty of the offence charged.


An adjournment is a suspension of court proceedings to a later time.  When you attend court for the first time, your matter will likely be adjourned to a date in the future to give you time to speak with a lawyer if you have not already done so beforehand.


An affidavit is a written statement which is sworn under oath to be true. Affidavits are often employed as evidence in court proceedings.


In situations when a party is dissatisfied with the outcome of legal proceedings, an appeal is made to higher judicial jurisdiction for a review of the initial decision.

Appearance Notice.

In criminal law, a Promise to Appear is a legal document that requires the accused to appear in court to answer to the charge(s) against them. A failure to appear may result in a bench warrant being issued for your arrest and you can be charged for failing to attend your first appearance in court.


Following a criminal charge, an arrest is the act of placing an individual into custody with the intention of either investigating a crime and/or preventing the accused from committing a further offence.


When an individual has been brought into police custody following an arrest, the accused will appear before a judicial officer who will ascertain whether or not he/she should be released or held in custody awaiting trial. If a judicial officer concludes that an individual should be released on bail, then the accused must make a payment used as security in ensuring that he/she attends future court proceedings.


In criminal law, a bond is a formal written agreement made to the court to carry out a legal obligation.


In criminal law, a charge is an accusation pertaining to a particular offence under the Criminal Code of Canada. Charges are formally read to a defendant in an arraignment.


The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is a component of our Constitution which guarantees Canadian citizens a range of civil rights and individual freedoms.

Conditional Discharge.

A Conditional Discharge is a finding a guilt becomes absolute after the expiry of the conditions ordered by the court. These conditions can be virtually anything that the court deems appropriate are generally the same sorts of conditions that might be attached to a less serious peace bond or a more serious probation order. Discharges must not be contrary to the public interest and must be in the interest of the accused person. In addition there must be no minimum sentence applicable to the offence in order to qualify for a discharge.

Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

The Controlled Drugs and Substances Act is Federal legislation which controls the possession and distribution of drugs as well as and other dangerous substances.


In criminal law, a conviction is a formal decision made by a court that the defendant is guilty. A conviction results in a criminal record.

Criminal Code of Canada.

The Criminal Code is Federal legislation which has codified most criminal offences as well as the elements of criminal procedure in Canada.

Crown Attorney.

In criminal law, a Crown Attorney is a qualified lawyer whose duty is to prosecute individuals for to criminal offences on the behalf of the Government of Canada (also referred to as the Crown).

Dangerous Offender.

A dangerous offender is an individual who has be convicted of a serious crime(s) and has been assessed as being likely to re-offend.


A defence is a legal argument brought forth by an accused party which seeks to demonstrate why the defendant should be found not guilty in criminal proceedings.

Defence Counsel.

In criminal law, defence counsel is a qualified lawyer who represents an accused individual in formal court proceedings.


When a defendant has been found guilty in criminal proceedings, a discharge can be issued by a judge as a sentence which absolves the accused of obtaining a conviction on his/her criminal record.


In criminal law, disclosure is the act of making certain materials and documents available to a party in compliance with legal requirements.


Diversion is a way of resolving a case whereby the charges are withdrawn and there is no criminal record if an accused person accepts responsibility for the act and completes one or more of a series of tasks including counselling, community service, writing a letter of apology, or making a charitable donation. Sometimes the charges do not get withdrawn following diversion but are “stayed”, meaning that the Crown attorney has chosen not to proceed with the prosecution.

Hybrid Offence.

Term applied to a criminal offence which may be tried by summary conviction procedure or by indictment at the option of the prosecutor. A hybrid offence is an indictable offence until the Crown elects to proceed by way of summary conviction. The difference is in the process followed.

Indictable Offence.

More serious criminal offences that carry longer maximum sentences and higher fines; these offences are also subject to more complex court procedures, including the right to a preliminary hearing before a trial in the Superior Court of Justice.

Judicial Interim Release

1.      Bail.

2.      Release of the accused between committal for trial and the trial’s completion. The release can be with or without conditions and with or without someone guaranteeing the release (a surety).

Justice of the Peace.

A judicial officer who has authority to do a variety of things in criminal matters, including, issuing warrants and hearing bail applications and provincial offence trials.

Legal Aid.

Legal advice and services mainly funded by government to assist those who are financially unable to retain a lawyer privately. Legal Aid Ontario administers Ontario’s legal aid program, which includes legal aid clinics, duty counsel, and certificates for private lawyers.

Mentally Incapable.

When someone cannot understand relevant information or cannot appreciate what may happen as the result of decisions they make or do not make. Different levels of capacity are required for different types of decisions and actions.

No Contact Order.

An order forbidding a person from contacting named person(s).

Summary Conviction Offence.

These criminal offences carry lower maximum penalties and are subject to less complex court procedures. These matters are heard in the Ontario Court of Justice.


A process that allows people who were convicted of a criminal offence, but have completed their sentence and demonstrated they are law-abiding citizens, to have their criminal record kept separate and apart from other criminal records. All information pertaining to convictions will be taken out of the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC) and may not be disclosed.


The early release of a prisoner from imprisonment, whereby the person is supervised and required to obey conditions

Peace Bond.

A peace bond is a court order which prohibits an individual from harassing or threatening another person. Peace bonds can have a duration of up to twelve months and the court may impose specific conditions with the intention of keeping the peace.


An intentional lie given under oath or affirmation, either in person or in writing. It is a criminal offence.


The declaration made by a person accused of a crime as to whether he or she is guilty or not guilty of the charge.

Plea Bargain (Resolution Discussions). 

Negotiated agreement between a prosecutor and an accused, including his or her lawyer, to settle a criminal case that is presented to a judge for their consideration and decision.


A statement in writing of material facts and law on which a party to a dispute relies in support of a claim or defence.


A judicial decision or judgment that is cited as the authority for deciding a similar situation in the same manner.

Preliminary Inquiry

The procedure conducted by a provincial court to determine whether the Crown has sufficient evidence for a trial of the accused. At the conclusion of the inquiry, the accused will either be discharged or ordered to stand trial (also referred to as committed for trial).


1.      A legal officer who represents the federal, provincial, or municipal government in proceedings. In Canada, federal prosecutors handle immigration and drug related charges; provincial prosecutors handle criminal cases and some provincial offences; and municipal prosecutors handle certain prosecutions of Provincial Offences Act matters.

2.      A private individual who carries on a private prosecution.

R. v. (name)/The Queen v. (name).  The title of proceeding of a criminal case. The ‘R.’ stands for Regina or Rex, which are the Latin words for Queen or King. The ‘v.’ stands for versus, but it is often read aloud by using the term “and” instead.


A legislated form used by the court that sets out the terms under which a person will be released on bail or on a peace bond and when he or she is expected to return to appear before the court.


To adjourn a hearing to a future date, most often used in criminal cases when the accused is in custody.


The penalty imposed on the finding of guilt.

Concurrent Sentence

Two or more terms of imprisonment served simultaneously.

Conditional Sentence

Where a sentence of imprisonment of less than two years is given, the judge may order that the sentence be served in the community subject to conditions.

Consecutive Sentence

Two or more terms of imprisonment served one after the other.

Custody and Community Supervision/Custody and Conditional Supervision

The Youth Criminal Justice Act makes provisions for a custody and community or conditional supervision order, where two thirds of the sentence is served in custody and one third is served in the community under supervision.


The act of confining someone in a jail or prison.

Intermittent Sentence

A sentence consisting of periods of imprisonment interrupted by periods of probation. Intermittent sentences may be given for sentences of imprisonment for 90 days or less, usually to avoid loss of employment or interruption of education or childcare.


An order authorizing a person to be in the community subject to conditions listed in the order.


An order requiring a convicted person to restore property to its rightful owner, compensate for a loss, or repair damage caused.

Suspended Sentence

The release of the convicted person on certain conditions contained in a probation order.

Show Cause Hearing.

A hearing where the prosecutor must “show cause” that the accused should be held in custody until the trial. (see Bail Hearing)

Solicitor-Client Privilege.

The confidentiality of communications between a lawyer and client where they relate to seeking, forming, or giving legal advice.

Stay of Proceedings.

An order suspending a legal proceeding, effectively ending the prosecution. The government generally has a limitations period of one year to bring the case back into court following a Stay-of-Proceedings. When this occurs it is usually because new evidence has been found or the accused is facing new additional charges.


A document that compels a person to attend proceedings as a witness in order to give testimony.

Summons (to Witness).

A document issued by a court, agency, board or commission, or another person, requiring a person to attend and to produce documents or other things.

Victim Fine Surcharge

An offender who is convicted or discharged of an offence under the Criminal CodeControlled Drugs and Substances Act, or Provincial Offences Act, must pay a victim surcharge in addition to any other punishment imposed on the offender, unless the court exempts the offender from paying.


A person who gives or promises security for another person. The security acts as a promise that conditions imposed in a proceeding or obligations will be fulfilled, or else the surety risks losing the security provided.


The hearing of a legal issue by a court. Trials tend to involve testimony from witnesses.


A change to a court order or other legal document, made on the authority of a court.

Victim Impact Statement.

A written statement prepared by victim(s) describing the impact of the offence on their life.

Voir Dire.

A trial within a trial. A procedure to determine the admissibility of certain evidence in advance of the evidence being admitted.


A judicial order directing a peace officer to do something such as arrest someone, search or seize something, or enforce a judicial order.

Arrest Warrant

A document authorizing the police to arrest an individual where the court orders it.

Bench Warrant

An order issued by a judge to a police officer for the arrest of a person who has failed to appear, or remain in attendance, at a hearing or trial. Bench warrants are a form of arrest warrants.

Discretionary Bench Warrant

In circumstances where a person does not appear in court, the court may extend a courtesy by issuing a bench warrant “with discretion”. The matter is adjourned to a future date and, if the person appears at that time, the warrant is cancelled.

Executed Warrant

A warrant that has been carried out.

Search Warrant

An order issued by a justice under statutory powers, authorizing a named person to enter a specified place to search for and seize specified property which will provide evidence of the actual or intended commission of an offence.

Unexecuted Warrant

A warrant that has not been carried out.

Warrant of Committal

An order requiring that a party be committed to prison for a specified period of time.

Warrant for Witness

A document requiring that police arrest a person who has failed to appear as a witness as ordered.


A withdrawal occurs when the Crown agrees to drop, or withdraw, the case because there is no reasonable prospect of conviction.


A witness provides evidence, usually during a trial, to assist a party.  Some witnesses are referred to as “Compellable” whereby they are required to give evidence, some are “Expert” witnesses who have specific knowledge of a particular field that is relevant to the proceedings.

Young Person.

Under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, a person between the ages 12 and 17 inclusive.

Youth Court (Youth Justice Court)

This is a court is specifically designated to  that hear Youth Criminal Justice Act cases.

Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA)

The YCJA is a Federal statute setting forth procedures and sentences for persons under 18 in Canada.  This replaced the Young Offenders Act in 2003.

Youth Custody Facility

These are locations under the Youth Criminal Justice Act where young persons are held in custody.