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What is bail?

What is bail?
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Nishnawbe-Aski Legal Services Corporation
CLEO (Community Legal Education Ontario / Éducation juridique communautaire Ontario)
Legal Aid Ontario

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What is bail?
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July 1, 2018

Bail, also known as a "recognizance of bail", is a court order that lets you remain in the community while your case is in the court system.

A bail hearing is not a trial. The judge or justice of the peace doesn’t decide whether you're guilty or innocent. Instead, they decide whether or not you should go back into the community while your case is in criminal court. If you're denied bail you will be kept in custody while your case is ongoing.

A bail hearing is also known as a show cause hearing. That is because usually the Crown must “show cause” why you shouldn't be released from custody on the least strict type of release: an undertaking without conditions.  

An undertaking without conditions lets you be released from custody as long as you promise to go to court when required. If the Crown wants you to follow more conditions if you're released, they must explain to the judge or justice of the peace why.

Sometimes, you may need to “show cause” why you should be allowed to go back into the community while your case is in court. This is called a “reverse onus” bail hearing. A reverse onus bail hearing happens if:

  • you were already on a release and now you're facing new, unrelated criminal charges
  • you were already on a release and you didn’t follow your conditions, and have been charged with failure to comply
  • you were charged with a drug offence involving the sale of drugs
  • you were charged with certain serious offences

At a bail hearing, a judge or justice of the peace will decide if you should be held in custody or released. If you're granted bail, you will likely have to follow conditions given to you by the court.

Your bail hearing is a very important step in the criminal court process. You only get one bail hearing in the Ontario Court of Justice. If you're denied bail, you will be in custody until your case is resolved, goes to trial, or you're released after a bail review in the Superior Court of Justice.

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