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Rights of a Person Accused of a Crime



Finding a person guilty of a crime can not be taken lightly. Because of this, the law guarantees certain fundamental rights that must be respected until the judge or jury makes a decision.

Presumption of Innocence

Presumption of Innocence

In Canada, a person accused of a crime is presumed innocent until the judge or jury finds him guilty. This is called the “presumption of innocence.”

The presumption of innocence is one of the most important rights in our criminal justice system.

This right means many things:

  • The accused does not have to prove his innocence . The prosecutor, who is the lawyer for the government, must prove and convince the judge or jury that the accused committed the crime. Prosecutors are officially called “criminal and penal prosecuting attorneys”. They used to be called “Crown Prosecutors”.
  • The prosecutor must prove that the guilty is “beyond a reasonable doubt”. At the end of the trial, if the prosecutor has not presented sufficient evidence, or if the judge or jury still has a reasonable doubt, it must be found not guilty. In other words, he will be “acquitted”.
  • The judge and jury must be fair . They can not be prejudiced against the accused during the proceedings. For example, a judge may not be involved in a case if the victim is a member of the family.

Right to Be Informed of Evidence

Right to Be Informed of Evidence

The accused has the right to defend himself against an accusation that he committed a crime. To prepare a proper defense, he has a right to know the evidence.

The prosecutor must inform the accused of all evidence against the accused before the trial , including the names of the witnesses who will testify. (“Testifying” means answering questions about a case.)

When the trial begins, the prosecutor starts by presenting the evidence and the witnesses testifying against the accused. Then the accused or his lawyer can question the witnesses.

Next, the accused presents a defense, with or without the help of a lawyer. He can testify, present evidence and question his own witnesses. However, the accused can not remain silent and testify in his own defense.

Right to Remain Silent

Right to Remain Silent

The accused has the right to remain silent in all the steps of the criminal process, from an arrest by the police until the end of the case.

The accused is therefore not required to testify to defend himself . He can simply remain silent.

The prosecutor can not force an accused to testify. The right to remain silent exists in the face of innocent until proven guilty, and he may not be forced to hurt his case by testifying against himself.

As a general rule, if the accused decides to remain silent, the judge and jury do not interpret this as proof of his guilt. In Canada, a person is presumed to be innocent until found guilty. The prosecutor must prove guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt”.

Although he has the right to remain silent, the accused can choose to testify in his own defense. If he does this, he will be questioned by his own lawyer and then by the prosecutor. However, sometimes there are certain questions the prosecutor can not ask the accused.

Right to Be Represented by a Lawyer

Right to Be Represented by a Lawyer

A person has the right to talk to a lawyer when he is arrested.

The right to a lawyer applies to the beginning of a criminal case. The accused can therefore be represented in his own case.

The accused must usually pay for his lawyer. However, an accused with a low income may qualify for government legal aid. In other more rare cases, the judge can give the accused a lawyer free of charge. This can happen, for example, if the accused does not qualify for legal aid.

The law also has the right to act on its own without a lawyer. If the judge does this, the judge may offer some help to make the trial is fair , for example by briefly explaining the different steps in the case. If necessary, the judge can

Right to Understand the Trial

Right to Understand the Trial

Choice of Language: English or French

A criminal trial takes place in English, French, and sometimes in both languages. An accused can ask for the trial to take place in the official language of his choice.

When the judge goes to justice for the first time, the judge must inform him of the right to choose the language of the trial and tell him how long he has to make this decision. The trainee usually has until the trial begins.

For example, if the choosen chooses English as the language of the trial,

  • the prosecutor, judge and jury must understand
  • the accused and his lawyer
  • some French documents must be translated into English, and
  • the judge’s decision should be made available in English.

However, the judge chooses to criticize. In this case, an interpreter will be made available.

When does the judge say that he does not indicate his choice of language? This way, the judge makes sure the trial has a fair trial.

Right to an Interpreter

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Criminal Code

  • English or French, or
  • do not speak the language of the accused.

For the Accused
When the first language of the interview is not English or French, she can ask for the trial to take place in either of these two languages ​​with which she is more comfortable.

If the interpreter does not have any understanding of English or French, or is deaf, an interpreter will be provided at no cost. This means she can testify in her own language and understand what is going on.

For a Witness

A witness can testify in English or French, no matter which language the accused chooses.

If a witness testifies in a language that is not the language of the accused, the accused or the lawyer may ask for an interpretation that the accused can understand the testimony.

Special Measures to Make Testifying Easier

Special Measures to Make Testifying Easier

Other measures are made to make them easier for people with disabilities (also called “intellectual disabilities”).