Close up of man with hands behind back in handcuffs

What to Expect if You Are Arrested in Newfoundland

Being arrested can be a terrifying experience. For most offences in Newfoundland, the police will just issue a Promise to Appear at court along with a date for you to attend at the police station for photograph and fingerprinting. You will then be sent on your way and expected to attend at the police station or the court house on your given dates. For more serious offences the police will hold you for a bail hearing. This will be dealt with in another section.

If Issued a Promise to Appear in Newfoundland
If you are issued a Promise to Appear by the police, it will include a time and place for your court date. In Newfoundland and Labrador, that will usually be at 9:30 a.m. at the Provincial Court location closest to where the alleged offence occurred. In St. John’s, the Provincial Court is at Atlantic Place on the fourth floor, and first appearances are held in court room #7.

For many people, the embarrassment of going to court is the worst part. They worry that they will be the only one on the court docket that day and that the media will be there to report their offence on the news. This is not the case, as generally there will be between 20-50 people on the docket and the media only reports on cases which they think will garner a lot of public attention. Accordingly, a theft, common assault or impaired driving charge is most likely not going to make the news.

Hiring a Criminal Lawyer from Gittens & Associates as Private Counsel

Many people also wonder about getting a lawyer for court. If you hire one of the criminal lawyers at Gittens & Associates in Newfoundland as private counsel, we will go to court for you and you will not have to attend in person. If you cannot afford private counsel you should apply to legal aid as soon as possible so that they can attend court on your behalf. If you cannot get counsel before your court date, Legal Aid duty counsel is available at the court. All you have to do is talk to them before court and they will take care of your appearance on that day.

What Will Happen In the Court Proceedings?
Procedurally, there is not a lot that happens at the first court appearance. The judge will formally read the charge(s) against you (unless counsel waives the reading) and the Crown will decide if they are going to proceed by summary conviction or indictment depending on the seriousness of the alleged offence. At this point, you or your lawyer will inform the court that you need to request disclosure from the Crown and that you need time to review it before entering a plea. The disclosure is basically the Crown’s case against you and includes things such as witness statements, police notes, videos etc.

The Judge will then set another date for you to come back and enter a plea, which is usually in about a month’s time. At that second appearance, you will either enter a not guilty plea in which case a trial date will be set or a guilty plea, in which case a sentencing date will be set.

Notwithstanding the foregoing, it is also extremely important to attend your identification date at the police station. Failure to attend your identification in Newfoundland can result in another criminal charge which could be punished with anything from a discharge to 30 days in jail. The identification procedure mainly consists of a provincial government civil servant taking your photo and fingerprints. If you are subsequently, acquitted at trial or your charges are withdrawn, you can write the police and ask that they destroy your fingerprints and photo. 

If you have any questions about this or any other legal matter in Newfoundland, please call Gittens & Associates for a free telephone consultation with our criminal lawyers at 709-579-8424.

-Stephen Orr

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