Got charges? A few tips to help you decide what to do next...

Withdrawal

The Crown can withdraw the charges for a number of reasons, including the realization that there is no reasonable prospect of conviction, or that it isn’t in the public interest to pursue the charges. A withdrawal puts an end to the proceedings and means no criminal record for the person charged.

Diversion

What is diversion?

Diversion is a method of resolving a case by “diverting” the charges away from the regular trial stream, thereby taking less serious charges out of the courts. Diversion is typically done in exchange for a withdrawal of the charges.

Do I have to admit to anything to enter into diversion?

Normally a diversion program requires that the accused person “accept responsibility” in an informal (and often vague) way for their conduct. It does not in any way require an admission of criminal guilt.

What kinds of things can I be required to do?

Diversion programs can vary and are usually an attempt at restorative justice: components of diversion can include community service hours, making a charitable donation, attending counselling, writing a letter of apology or any combination of similar things. Once an accused is deemed eligible for diversion, these details are often worked out with a staff member of the diversion program at the courthouse.

What happens once I complete my diversion?

Depending on the agreement made with the Crown, the charge is typically withdrawn once the requirements of an individual’s diversion program are completed. This ends the proceedings and means no criminal record and no finding of guilt. Some jurisdictions do not withdraw the charge, but rather stay the charge, which means that the charge does not proceed even though it is not technically withdrawn. The result is functionally the same.

Peace Bonds

What is a peace bond?

A peace bond is a promise made by a person to abide by the conditions of a court order. Peace bonds can be entered into under the Criminal Code (“section 810 peace bonds”) or under the common law power of the courts (“common law peace bonds”).

Do I have to admit to anything by entering into a peace bond?

Entering into a peace bond does not mean admitting to any crime, and does not involve a finding of guilt by the court. It does (at least in the case of a s. 810 bond) involve an acknowledgement that there is reason to fear that the person entering into the bond will cause injury to, or damage the property of another person, or will injure the spouse or child of another person.

What kinds of conditions can be imposed through a peace bond?

At minimum, a peace bond requires the individual to promise to keep the peace and be of good behaviour for a period of up to 12 months. Other conditions can be attached, including not to contact or communicate with another person, not to be in the possession of drugs or weapons, or not to go near a certain place. The person entering the bond is also required to pledge an amount of money (hence the term “bond”) that she might forfeit if she breaches a term of the bond.

Does a peace bond mean I get a criminal record?
No – a peace bond does not involve a finding of guilt and does not result in a criminal record. However, a breach of any of the terms of a peace bond does constitute a criminal offence and may result in further charges (and potentially a criminal record if there is a finding of guilt on those charges).

Discharges (absolute and conditional)

What is a discharge?

A discharge is the most lenient kind of sentence a court can impose following a finding of criminal guilt against an accused, either through a guilty plea or at the end of a trial. Discharges are granted by the court where it is in the accused’s interests and not against the public interest to do so.

Does a discharge mean I get a criminal record?

No. Although a discharge necessarily means a finding of criminal guilt, the accused is not “convicted” of a criminal offence and the charge does not result in a criminal record.

What’s the difference between an absolute and a conditional discharge?

Discharges can either be absolute or conditional. A conditional discharge imposes conditions on an accused through a period of probation, for a duration of up to two years. Conditions attached to a discharge typically require the person to keep the peace, and can include additional requirements not to possess any weapons or drugs, not to attend at a certain place, not to have contact or communication with certain people, and so on. A breach of any term of a conditional discharge can result in the accused being brought back before the court, at which time a formal conviction can be entered and a harsher sentence imposed.

An absolute discharge takes effect immediately and does not impose any conditions on an accused, or require any period of probation.

Will any of these results affect the outcome of civil proceedings against the police/state?

If you are pursuing, or considering pursuing, a civil suit against the police or government in relation to the G20, please note that some of these results could have an effect on the outcome of your civil case. Please consult with both civil and criminal counsel in order to determine what that effect might be before deciding how to deal with your criminal charges.

In solidarity,

The Movement Defence Committee