Department of Justice

Understanding the Court Process

Victim Services

Steps in the Court Process

For adult offenders, the type of court that will hear the case, and the steps in the trial process, will mostly depend on the type of offence. Victim Services can help you understand what process your case will follow.

If the accused is a young offender their case will usually go through the youth criminal justice system. Often this means it will go to an alternative therapeutic process.

For adult court, there are two main types of offences. The Crown has some flexibility in deciding whether a charge will be dealt with as a summary or indicatable offence.

1. Summary Offences

Summary offences are usually less serious offences. The maximum penalty for a summary offence is usually a $2,000 fine and/or six months in jail (some summary offences, such as certain assaults, have higher maximum sentences).

Summary Court Process

Unless the case is referred to an alternative process, Summary Offences are generally heard in a Territorial Court.

  • If the accused pleads not guilty, the case will go to trial. Victims may be required to testify.
  • If the accused pleads guilty, the case will go to sentencing. Victims are not required to testify.
  • Normally, victims do not have to attend Court when the accused enters a plea, or when they are sentenced, but you may if you wish.
  • If you are required to attend Court, you will get a subpoena from the police.

Click on the chart for an overview of the process for summary offences.

2. Indictable Offences

These are for more serious offences. They include theft over $5,000, break and enter, aggravated sexual assault and murder.

Maximum penalties for indictable offences vary and can include life in prison. Some indictable offences have minimum sentences.

Indictable Offences 

There are different trial options for the accused. They can choose to have the case heard in the Territorial or Supreme Court.

If the accused chooses to go to the Supreme Court, a Preliminary Hearing will be held to determine if there is enough evidence to proceed to trail. The victim is usually required to testify at a preliminary hearing.

If the case goes ahead, the accused can choose to have a trail in front of the Judge alone, or a Judge and Jury.

You normally only have to go to Court when you have to testify. You will get a subpoena from the police that will state when you must attend Court.

Click on the chart for an overview of the process for indictable offences.

For more information on the steps in the court process, read An Introduction to Court .

If the offender is a youth

If the offender is between 12-17 years old, the case will normally go into the youth criminal justice system. In some cases, the Crown decides which system should deal with the case (they might apply to have the youth tried in Adult Court if it is a serious, violent offence).

If it does go to the youth criminal justice system , the victim might not get as much information (such as names of the offender). The case may also be diverted to an alternative youth process. Please see Youth Justice for more information.

To learn more about the differences for the youth criminal justice system, please contact Victim Services.