What does “fit to stand trial” mean?

2. Understand fitness hearings

If the judge is not sure about your ability to participate in your case, they will order you to get a mental-health assessment before your fitness . This is called an assessment order.

Assessment orders

The assessment is a meeting with a psychiatrist who interviews you to understand your mental health. Usually, it is a short meeting. For example, in Toronto, many accused people see the psychiatrist during lunch, then they have a fitness hearing that afternoon.

Assessments are usually completed within 5 days. In rare circumstances where the doctor isn't sure about your fitness right away, the assessment can take up to 2 months.

This assessment is used at your fitness hearing. But the information you give during your assessment usually can't be used against you in your . Before you participate in your assessment, you should get legal advice from or your lawyer.

Assessment is different than treatment. Assessment means the doctor tries to understand your mental health. Treatment means the doctor does something to improve or stabilize your mental health, such as medication or therapy. The doctor is not allowed to treat you during your assessment.

You can't get until the doctor finishes the assessment, even if the assessment takes several weeks or months.

If the doctor thinks that you're fit, your lawyer and the Crown will likely agree that there is no need for a fitness hearing. Your case will continue as normal.

If the doctor does not think you're fit, you will have a fitness hearing.

The fitness hearing

At a fitness hearing, you have the right to a lawyer. If you don't have a lawyer, duty counsel might help you or the judge will appoint a lawyer to represent you. You can apply for a legal aid certificate to hire any lawyer you choose.

At the fitness hearing the judge will consider:

  • the psychiatrist's opinion
  • and arguments from you, your lawyer, duty counsel, or the Crown
  • information from any witnesses

If the Crown asked for the hearing, the Crown must prove that you're unfit. If you asked for the hearing, you and your lawyer must prove that you're unfit.

The judge can only decide that you're unfit if one of these things is true:

  • You don't understand what the case is about
  • You don't understand the possible outcomes of the case, such as a possible or punishment
  • You can't effectively communicate with your lawyer

If the judge decides you're fit, your criminal case will continue.

If the judge decides you're unfit, your case is put on hold. If you've already pleaded guilty, your plea is cancelled.

The judge may order you to get treatment for your mental health so that your case can restart if your treatment is successful. This is called a treatment order. Read more about treatment orders in Step 3.

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