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Understanding the Canadian Criminal Justice System: Process Chart and Handbook

NCJ Number
Date Published
18 pages
This document is designed to help criminal justice system clients in Canada understand the system and its legislative and organizational foundation.
The Canadian criminal justice system is comprised of three major components -- police, courts, and correctional services -- each of which includes several types of official decisionmakers. This booklet summarizes the flow of cases through the criminal justice system, beginning with the commission of a crime, a police response, and the issuance of a court appearance notice. At that point, charges may be laid, an offender arrested without warrant, or alternative measures invoked. If none of these steps are taken, the offender appears at a judicial interim release hearing and eventually, the trial court (youth or adult). A plea is entered, and the trial begins, during which the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused actually committed the crime. The jury or judge makes a decision regarding the accused's guilt or innocence and, if guilty, determines the appropriate disposition of the case. Options include discharge, fine, forfeiture of proceeds, probation order, suspended sentence, compensation to victim, community service order, custody, or treatment.


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