Once you are charged with a criminal offence, it can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few years for your case to be “over”. There are many factors that affect the length of your case, for example, its seriousness and complexity. The Police, Crown Attorney and Courts can sometimes extend the length by not providing disclosure in a timely manner. The unavailability of timely court dates due to Court backlog may also extend the length. In those cases, a motion can be brought for the charges to be stayed due to a Charter violation. S. 11(b) of the Charter states that “Everyone has the right to be tried within a reasonable amount of time”.
What is defined as a reasonable amount of time in each particular case will have to be analyzed based on the procedural facts of the prior court appearances and the complexity of the case itself. The length of your matter will depend also on whether you are resolving or taking the matter to trial. Generally, the process for matters that resolve in guilty pleas is much quicker in duration than matters that proceed to trial. In more serious offences, an Accused is entitled to a Preliminary Hearing. While very useful to the Defence, a Preliminary Hearing can further delay your matter. Recent rulings from the Supreme Court of Canada have emphasized the importance that an Accused have a speedy trial within a quantifiable period of time. Currently, for criminal matters proceeding by summary conviction, that time period is approximately 18 months. Unreasonable delay which falls on the Crown Attorney is no longer accepted by the Courts and has resulted in serious charges (including murder) being stayed (which is basically equivalent to a withdrawal). However, every case is different and unique.