Legal Guide

What Happens When You Are Booked in Jail?

Most people have a preconceived notion of what happens when you are booked in jail. This article aims to break that down by explaining the process step-by-step, looking at the entire process of being arrested, charged, and brought before a judge in Canada.

Your Guide to What Happens When You’re Booked in Jail

Being Charged with a Crime

The initial step to being arrested is either you are taken into custody or surrender yourself into police custody. 

After this happens, an officer will read you your rights, usually contained within 'The Charter of Rights And Freedoms'. You have the right to speak to a lawyer immediately upon being detained by the police. It's best if you hire one with experience in the field you've been charged in (example: hiring a sexual assault lawyer for a sexual assault charge).

If you cannot afford one, then one will be appointed for you without cost.

Before anyone in Canada can even be charged with a crime, they must be told what the specific charges against them are. This is called being 'booked in'. The arresting officer will fill out paperwork stating why you were arrested and provide this information to their superior. You have the right to know why you are being detained and arrested at any time.

Upon arriving at the police station, fingerprints will be taken from your hands, which are kept on file along with your photo in case you get into any kind of trouble again in the future. Detainees are then placed in a cell by themselves or with others of the same gender.

24 Hours to Prove Your Crime     

At this point, police have 24 hours to decide whether they have enough evidence to charge you with something. If so, charges will be laid, and you will appear before a judge when your bail hearing will take place.

You will meet your lawyer at this time as well if you have not already done so. If no charges are being brought against you, then the arresting officer must let you go within that 24-hour timeframe, even if it is simply because there isn't enough evidence yet. Charges can also be dropped at any time before a trial begins.

If you are released at this time, you can go home but must appear in court on your chosen date to learn the fate of your charges. However, if you are not released, you will spend another 12 hours in jail before appearing in front of a judge for your bail hearing.

The Potential of Bail

Here is where the accused will present their arguments for why they should be allowed to go free on bail. At this point, the judge has to choose whether or not you pose a risk if released from jail. The judge will consider why you should be let go (i.e., maybe you have young children at home).

You may also choose to make arrangements with members who agree to act as sureties for you - they are basically the people who will be there to keep an eye on you up until your trial is over. You may also choose to post a cash bond which means that if you don't show up for court, then the police will automatically come and get you so long as the charges still stand.

Setting a Trial Date

If all goes well, charges against you will be dropped or thrown out of court, and no convictions will be entered against your name, and you will be free to go.

However, if not, then a date will be set for your trial.

If it's the latter, then the most time they can hold you before going to trial is one year from that day, but this can be extended to two years under special circumstances. The way that you are treated while in jail varies from province to province and even jail to jail.

During this time, your lawyer will develop a defence for your charges, including collecting evidence and witness statements and getting your version of events. It's important that you're honest with your lawyer about what happened, so they provide you with the best defence possible.


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