Very little happens at the first Court appearance. This will not be your trial date, and you will not be expected to take a substantive step on that date. If you do not have a lawyer, your charge will be read to you to ensure that you understand the allegations, and you will be given an opportunity to order disclosure from the Crown Prosecutor’s office. The most likely outcome from your first court appearance is that the matter will be adjourned, which means that it will be rescheduled to another date so that you can review disclosure and retain a lawyer if you choose. It is possible to plead guilty at your first court appearance, although it is generally not recommended that you do this without reviewing the Crown disclosure.
5 Tips For Your First Court Appearance:
- If you have not retained a lawyer before the date of your first court appearance, look at the documents or appearance notice that are directing you to attend court. On those documents, you will find the date, time, and place you need to make the appearance.
- If you are appearing for the first time, you will probably have to attend either the Case Management Office (CMO) or make an appearance in a docket court. CMO and docket court are areas in the courthouse reserved for basic appearances like requesting adjournments and setting dates for trial and dispositions.
- Before making your appearance, check the docket list and make sure that your name is on it and that the charges are correct. Try to arrive 15 minutes early for your scheduled appearance and, before entering the courtroom, make sure all non-religious head wear is removed and that your cell phone is turned off.
- If you need assistance, look for duty counsel. Duty counsel is a free lawyer who is present in many of the docket courts, and who is there to help individuals with their first appearance. If you proceed without the assistance of duty counsel, sit quietly in the courtroom until your name is called or you are invited to speak.
- If you can, you should use this opportunity to order your disclosure, that is, the evidence that the Crown Prosecutor has against you. While your lawyer can order disclosure once they have been retained, ordering your disclosure at the earliest available opportunity will help to keep you matter moving as quickly as possible. Since it normally takes several weeks for the Crown Prosecutor to prepare your initial disclosure package, if you order your disclosure at your first court appearance, you may be able to cut down on the time you will otherwise be waiting for your lawyer to order and receive your initial disclosure. The faster you get your disclosure and forward it to your lawyer, the faster he or she can identify potential defences and order additional or missing disclosure if needed.