What happens to my criminal court case during COVID-19?
Usually, during your criminal case, you must go to court many different times. This can include court dates for things like:
- first appearances or setting dates
- judicial pre-trials
- guilty pleas
- sentencing hearings
While some of these criminal court dates will happen in-person during COVID-19, most will happen by telephone or video.
It’s best to contact your local court for more information.
Find your court date online
You can check online to see the list of cases the court is dealing with today and tomorrow.
These lists include the case name, time, room number, and reason for the court appearance. They’re updated at least once a day at 8 a.m.
Your case will not be on the online list if:
- it was added to the list after 8 a.m.
- it’s not scheduled for today or tomorrow
- it’s scheduled for a weekend or statutory holiday
During COVID-19, some criminal court cases in the were automatically . This means that your case was rescheduled for a different day.
If you missed a court date during COVID-19, your case may have been adjourned.
How to attend court remotely
If your case is in the Ontario Court of Justice, you can find out how to attend remotely on the court website.
If your case is in the , you should contact the court to ask how you can attend remotely.
How to attend court in person
In some situations, you may have to go to the courthouse. For example, you might have to go if:
- you’ve been given a
- the judge or justice of the peace told you that you must come to court
If you don’t go to court when you’re supposed to, the judge or justice of the peace can issue a for the police to you.
If you must go to court in person, make sure you get to the courthouse early. There are extra screening measures you must follow to go in. The government also has an online screening tool with questions about COVID-19 symptoms for you to check out.
If you can’t enter the courtroom because of COVID-19 screening, court staff or the online tool will give you information about what to do next.
If you can enter the courtroom, you’ll have to wear a face covering like a mask.
Usually, only the people who are charged, their lawyers, and witnesses are allowed to enter the court. Others, like family members and supporters, are only allowed in if the judge or justice of the peace decides that it’s “absolutely necessary”.
Moving your case forward
The judges and justices of the peace expect you to keep your case moving forward, even during COVID-19. This means doing things like:
- finding and hiring a lawyer
- contacting Legal Aid Ontario to get legal advice or to apply for a certificate
- contacting the Crown’s office to get disclosure
- scheduling and having Crown pre-trial meetings and judicial pre-trial meetings
If your case is scheduled for a jury , the court will start selecting jury members only if your courthouse is located within a COVID-19 Green Zone.
If your courthouse is not in a Green Zone, your trial may be delayed.
If your jury trial has already started, but your courthouse is no longer in a Green Zone, the judge decides whether or not to continue it.
Getting legal help
You can get summary legal advice and duty counsel services over the phone from Legal Aid Ontario (LAO). Call 1-800-668-8258 or, in Toronto, at 416-979-1446. For TTY, use Bell Relay Service at 1-800-855-0511.
Because of COVID-19, anyone can use LAO’s services to get legal advice and information right now. It does not matter what your income is.