When dealing with court trials, a defendant may face delays in proceedings that can push back the verdict longer than what would be ideal.
An unfortunate reality of courtroom proceedings is that a large number of people are in jail awaiting trial. The longer a person spends in prison, the greater an effect it will have on them once they get out and begin rebuilding their livelihood.
If you face a similar predicament, it’s not the end of the world. There are safeguards in place in the Canadian Justice System that prevent specific instances like these from happening. After all, court delays should never be the reason for a negative impact on the unfairly accused.
Let’s take a closer look at unreasonable delay situations in court, why they happen and how they impact your rights.
The Right To A Fair And Speedy Trial: A Brief Overview
No matter the severity of the charges pressed, a defendant has the right to be tried within a reasonable time. The judicial system strives to protect the rights of the accused, but then the question of continuous delay crops up. When exactly does the delay become unreasonable?
Systemic delays have become a problem for defendants, something that the Supreme Court acknowledged. The Supreme Court stated that the older judicial methods of framing a delay as unreasonable were difficult to predict and confusing.
These older methods are what caused a string of delay-based strategies within the court system, which were not always with good intent. And this inspired the Supreme Court to create a new framework that restructured the definition of an unreasonable delay.
What Constitutes As An Unreasonable Delay
In 2016, the Supreme Court introduced a new framework that redefined what constitutes an unreasonable delay. This happened following three decisions in June and July of the same year, establishing a new time limit as a part of said framework. Delays that go beyond these limits are deemed unreasonable.
These time limits are as follows:
- 18 months for trials held in provincial courts
- 30 months for trials held in superior courts
The circumstances surrounding the delay must be exceptional, unavoidable and believably unforeseen in a manner that cannot be remedied. These circumstances are broadly classified into two categories:
- Discrete events such as illness
- Complex cases that cover a large volume of information
The Impact Of Unreasonable Delays On Your Rights
So, what do these delays mean for your rights? During the time limit that constitutes a reasonable delay, your actions may be restricted as the accused. For example, when charged with a Driving Under the Influence offence, you may face driving restrictions or lose your driver’s license.
It’s easy to see why delays become a problem for the accused very quickly, but it’s not all doom and gloom. If your trial is delayed for longer than what is deemed reasonable, the court may order a stay in proceedings.
Meaning, if your right to a fair and speedy trial has been infringed, the court will halt all criminal proceedings against you. This includes any restrictions that may have been placed during trial.
Considering the backlog in the criminal court system, delays are something an accused can absolutely not afford to face. Though there is a safeguard in place that protects their rights, the delays have a significant impact on the life of the accused.
The new framework protects the rights of the accused, but it creates new problems as well, such as increased frequency of stay applications. Thus, these applications have to be made by the criminal lawyer well before the trial advances.
If you’re dealing with significant delays in your court proceedings, contact your nearest criminal law firm today.