What happens at a provincial offences trial, and how do I prepare?

1. Understand the law

Your Notice of Offence or Summons will tell you what you’re being charged with and under which law.

You can be charged with more than one offence under more than one law at a time. Some examples of offences that are handled by Provincial Offences Court include:

  • Highway Traffic Act: speeding, not wearing a seat belt, or careless driving
  • Compulsory Automobile Insurance Act: not having an insurance card or driving without insurance
  • Trespass to Property Act: entering property when entry is not allowed, doing something on property that is not allowed, not leaving property when told to
  • Liquor License Act: being intoxicated in a public place or driving with open container of liquor
  • Cannabis Control Act: driving with cannabis readily available
  • Municipal by-laws about noise or parking tickets
  • Provincial environmental and labour offences

There are also rules about how Provincial Offences Court works. You can find them in the Provincial Offences Act and in the court rules.

Types of provincial offences

Everyone charged is presumed innocent. The prosecutor must prove that you’re guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. You will also have the chance to question the prosecution’s evidence and to present your evidence and version of events.

There are three kinds of provincial offences. Each of them needs a different kind of proof by the prosecutor:

Absolute Liability: The prosecutor must prove that you committed the act you’re charged with. They don’t need to show that you meant to commit the crime. Parking and speeding are examples.

Strict Liability: The prosecutor must prove that you committed the act you’re charged with. They don’t need to prove that you meant to commit the crime. But, you can defend yourself by proving that you took reasonable steps to avoid the crime. Careless driving is an example.

Mens rea offences: The prosecutor must prove that you committed the act and that you meant to commit the act. Having or using a false insurance card is an example.

Research

You can get information about the law and do legal research at most courthouse libraries. You can also use CanLii (Canadian Legal Information Institute), a free online legal information database.

If you want to know what type of offence you have been charged with, research a case that involves that offence. The judgment should say what kind of offence it is. There is no list of these offences.

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