Did you get a document telling you to appear in front of a judge?
The document you got is called a summons, an appearance notice or a promise to appear. No matter which document you got, you have to go to court at the time and date stated in the document.
This article explains what an appearance is, your rights and what might happen if you do not go.
Appearance: You Have No Choice
An appearance is when you go in front of a judge for the first time after the police stopped you. It is not a trial. You go to the Youth Division of the Court of Québec, often called youth court. You must appear – you have no choice.
You have rights!
Your parents can go with you to your appearance. You can also have a lawyer to help you. Learn more about your rights!
If you can’t pay for a lawyer, contact a legal aid office before the date you have to appear.
If you are asked to go to the police station to have your fingerprints taken, you must go.
You’ll find general information about fingerprinting in the document you got (summons, appearance notice or promise to appear).
What Happens During the Appearance?
You will be officially accused of one or more crimes at your appearance.
Important! It’s a crime if you do not appear in front of a judge at the time and date stated in the document you got. It’s also a crime if you refuse to have your fingerprints taken. You must obey these orders. You have no choice.
Pleading Guilty or Not Guilty
After you’re told what crimes you’re accused of, you must give the judge your official answer to each accusation. You can answer that you are guilty of the crimes you’re accused of. Or you can answer that you are not guilty. Giving your answer is called pleading. You can plead guilty or not guilty.
Ask your lawyer what happens if you plead guilty or not guilty.
You Plead Not Guilty: You’ll Have a Trial
If you plead not guilty, you will probably have a trial. A trial is usually the most important part of the case. Lawyers for both sides give proof and arguments in court so the judge can make a decision.
If you plead not guilty, you will be able to see the proof against you. This is often a copy of the police report. A police report says what you did and what witnesses have said. Witnesses are people who have information about the crime.
|Good to know! If you plead not guilty, you can change your plea to guilty later on.|
In Canada, people accused of a crime are innocent until proven guilty. This means that it’s not up to you to prove you did not commit the crime. Instead, it’s the criminal and penal prosecuting attorney who has to prove that you did. The criminal and penal prosecuting attorney is the government lawyer who brings your case to court and is often called the prosecutor.
You Plead Guilty: What Happens?
If you plead guilty, there will not be a trial. When you plead guilty you are saying that you committed the crime.
The judge will make sure that there are good reasons to accuse you of the crime. The judge will also make sure that you really understand what is happening and what you are accused of.
The judge will then find you guilty. You will be given your punishment later. The punishment you are given is called a sentence.
Have you committed a crime? Learn what can happen.
Alternatives to Court
Going to Court
This article explains in a general way the law that applies in Quebec. This article is not a legal opinion or legal advice. To find out the specific rules for your situation, consult a lawyer or notary.