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The trial

When you arrive at your assigned court room, first check the docket posted outside on the bulletin board. (Regina vs. You! You are doing legal battle with the Queen! How intimidating...) Check to see if your name is on the list. If not, go to the information desk and ask for assistance. If your name is on the list, then you can take a seat outside of the court room and wait for the court to open. Note that although you may have a last name beginning with 'W' or even 'Z', it doesn't mean that your case will be heard last. So don't wander away. The court will usually open for admission 5 to 10 minutes prior to the designated time, and will be announced on the public address system. When the court room opens, go in and take a seat at the spectator area, then wait for the judge to show up.

When the judge comes, rise. Next the judge will dismiss the cases where the officer is not present, and the defendant showed up. If you are one of the lucky ones, he will call out your name, and announce that the province wishes to withdraw the charge. You then leave the court room with a big grin on your face! And there are cases where both the officer and the defendant don't show up. In which case, the province won't withdraw the charge and will convict the defendant in his absence. What a waste of opportunities!

Next comes the "guilty with explanation" pleas. These are the quick cases. After these people are gone, there should not be many left in the court room.

When the judge calls your name, you stand up. He/she will announce the offence you are being charged, e.g. "You are charged with the offence of speeding 130km/h in a 100km/h zone, contrary to the Highway Traffic Act section 128, how do you plead - guilty or not guilty?" If you have made this far, and have prepared your case, say "Not guilty! Your Worship." then take a seat at the counsellor's table on the left.

First, it is the prosecution (the plaintiff) to present its case. The prosecutor will call his witness(es) to testify. The prosecutor will try to guide the witness by asking questions to elicit facts to prove its case. This is called "examination-in-chief", or "direct examination" in the American context. When the witness finishes, it is your turn to ask the witness questions. This is called "cross-examination". Cross-examination is the most important step since it is your opportunity to embarrass the prosecution and cast doubt on its case. If there are multiple witnesses for the prosecution, the next one will only be called when you are done cross-examining the first. This process repeats until all witnesses for the prosecution have finished testifying and have been cross-examined. This concludes the prosecution's case.

It is now time for the defence to present its case. The process works pretty much the same, except that now the roles have switched. You call your witness(es), and the prosecutor does the cross-examining. You can testify for yourself, and the prosecutor will cross-examine you. This part is entirely optional. Unless you have some witness who is vital to your defence, it is usually recommended to just skip this part. If you have scored enough points in cross-examining the cop, don't waste your time to give your own defence. Remember, if you give your own defence, the prosecution will have the opportunity to cross-examine you. If you (and your witnesses) are not experienced, you might get screwed up there.

After the defendant's testimony, both parties will give their closing arguments. You should make a summary of points you raised, and WHY you should be innocent. The summary should be brief and concise, and you should not introduce new arguments here. It usually starts with "Your Worship, I sincerely ask that a verdict of not guilty be entered based on the grounds that..." then you state your reason(s).

Then the judge will deliver the verdict, which is either guilty or not guilty. If you are not guilty, you are free to go. If you are guilty, the judge will pass the sentence. The judge will already have in his/her mind how much the fine should be, but he/she may ask your submission on how much time you need to pay. You should be prepared to explain your situation to the judge if you need extended time. Sometimes you are legally guilty but you had a good case, the judge will pass a "suspended sentence". Which means if you do not commit the same offence again in a certain time period, your fine is waived.

Good luck.

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