Bail, also known as a “recognizance of bail“, is a court order that lets you remain in the community while your case is in the court system.
A bail hearing is not a trial. The judge or justice of the peace doesn’t decide whether you’re guilty or innocent. Instead, they decide whether or not you should go back into the community while your case is in criminal court. If you’re denied bail you will be kept in custody while your case is ongoing.
A bail hearing is also known as a show cause hearing. That is because usually the Crown must “show cause” why you shouldn’t be released from custody on the least strict type of release: an undertaking without conditions.
An undertaking without conditions lets you be released from custody as long as you promise to go to court when required. If the Crown wants you to follow more conditions if you’re released, they must explain to the judge or justice of the peace why.
The last place anyone wants to find themselves is in a jail cell. And if you’re unlucky enough arrive in one your first concern is getting out as quickly as possible. But how? First you will need to be “booked,” or processed into police custody. Then you may have to post “bail,” a set amount of money you pay in exchange for your release.
This article provides an overview of the booking procedure and the bail and bonds process.
What Does Booking Mean?
If you’re placed under arrest, normally you will be taken into police custody and booked, or processed. During booking, officers will generally:
- Record your personal information (name, date of birth, physical characteristics);
- Record information about the alleged crime;
- Record your fingerprints, and photographs;
- Check for any criminal background;
- Search your person and confiscates any personal property like keys, phone, or a purse (to be returned upon your release); and
- Place you in a police station holding cell or local jail.
If you’ve been arrested for a minor offense, you might be given a written citation and released, after signing the citation and promising to appear in court at a later date. If not, you will go through the bail and bond procedure.
Arraignment and Own Recognizance Release
After booking, the next step is the arraignment, where you will be read the formal charges and be given an opportunity to arrange for your release. The main concern authorities have is that you show up for your future court dates. In certain cases, you may be eligible to be released on your own recognizance. This means you promise in writing to appear in court later on. A judge deciding whether to grant own recognizance release normally considers:
- The seriousness of the crime;
- Your criminal record, if any;
- Whether you pose a danger to the community; and
- Your ties to the community (whether you are a risk to flee).
If you are released on your own recognizance and fail to appear for your court date as scheduled, a warrant may be issued for your arrest.
Sometimes, you may need to “show cause” why you should be allowed to go back into the community while your case is in court. This is called a “reverse onus” bail hearing. A reverse onus bail hearing happens if:
- you were already on a release and now you’re facing new, unrelated criminal charges
- you were already on a release and you didn’t follow your conditions, and have been charged with failure to comply
- you were charged with a drug offence involving the sale of drugs
- you were charged with certain serious offences
At a bail hearing, a judge or justice of the peace will decide if you should be held in custody or released. If you’re granted bail, you will likely have to follow conditions given to you by the court.
Your bail hearing is a very important step in the criminal court process. You only get one bail hearing in the Ontario Court of Justice. If you’re denied bail, you will be in custody until your case is resolved, goes to trial, or you’re released after a bail review in the Superior Court of Justice.