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Frequently Asked Questions



If you're a victim of a crime you might be asking these questions:

How do I have someone charged?
If you're the victim of a crime, call the police. The police have the authority to charge someone with a crime.

How do I get someone to stay away from me? Can I get a peace bond?
A peace bond is a court order requiring that a specific person or persons stay away from you, your family or your property. If you have reason to fear that a specific person may harm you, your family or your property, you can apply for a peace bond in a provincial court office. You must fill out an application there. A court date will be set for you and the person about whom you complained.

What is an undertaking?
This is a release order issued by the court. Generally, an undertaking is an order for an individual to appear in court at a later date with or without conditions attached.

What is a recognizance?
This is another type of release order with more restrictive conditions. Often, a pledge of money or personal property is required to guarantee compliance.

How do I change the conditions of an undertaking or recognizance?
Only the accused person, his or her lawyer, or a Crown Attorney can make an application to a judge to have the conditions of an undertaking or recognizance.

What do I do if someone breaks these conditions?
Call the police. Police will lay a charge if there is enough evidence to support it.

How can I get the charges dropped against someone?
Only the Crown Attorney can make the decision to drop charges.

If the case is going to trial, when will a Crown Attorney contact me?
Depending on the nature of the case, it may be well in advance of the court appearance or not until the day of the court appearance. The Crown Attorney will be in touch well before any court appearances when the case is major or complex or involves child witnesses or witnesses who have special needs.

Is what I tell the Crown Attorney confidential?
No. Anything that is relevant to the guilt or the innocence of the accused will be disclosed to the defence.

Is the Crown Attorney my lawyer?
No. The Crown Attorney represents the interests of the public.

Do I have to get a lawyer?
No. But you may choose to do so.

What's the name of a good lawyer?
The Public Prosecution Service does not make legal referrals. Most lawyers are listed in the telephone directory. The Nova Scotia Barristers' Society also operates a legal referral service.

If they caught him/her in the act why do we have to go through a trial?
The accused is always presumed innocent until proven guilty. When the accused pleads not guilty, the Crown must be able to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt for the accused to be convicted.

I gave a statement to police. Why do I have to testify in court?
Statements to the police are not usually admissible as evidence in court; you must testify.

What if I don't show up?
A warrant could be issued for your arrest.

Why do I have to go to court if I don't want this to go ahead?
It's not your decision. Only the Crown Attorney can decide whether the matter will proceed.

Will the defendant be present in the courtroom?
Yes, usually.

Will court be open to the public?
Yes, unless the judge orders otherwise and that is a rare occurrence.

Can the family of the accused be kept out of the courtroom while I testify?
The courtroom is open to the public. Unless the judge orders the court closed or excludes specific persons, anybody can be in the courtroom.

Will reporters be present?
Court is open to reporters. They may or may not be present depending on their interest. In certain circumstances, the judge has the authority to limit what the reporters may publicize.

I'm afraid. Can I have a police escort to and from Court?
This is not usually done. Speak to the Crown Attorney about your concerns. It may be possible to arrange this in some cases if the police agree.

Can I sit in during the evidence before and/or after I testify?
Normally, the defence or the Crown asks the judge to order the exclusion of witnesses from the courtroom before they testify. Whether you may attend after you testify is up to the judge. If there is no exclusion order, you may sit in. Ask the Crown Attorney for clarification in your case.

Do I get paid to testify?
Witnesses are entitled to a nominal fee (around $6) for every day spent in court plus mileage one way. An application form is available at the Crown Attorney's office.

I work full-time. Do I get paid my wages for coming to court? Who's going to pay me for the missed time from work?
Unfortunately, there is no allowance for this.

I live out of town. Are my travel, hotel and meal expenses covered? What about other expenses like child care, taxis to and from the court house and the airport?
These kinds of expenses are covered only upon pre-approval by the Crown Attorney.

I lost my subpoena. When is my court date?
Call the Crown Attorney's office or the courthouse. As long as you know the name of the accused individual, that information is easily attainable.

How can I find out who the Crown Attorney will be on any given date?
Call the Crown Attorney's office a few days before you are scheduled to appear.

How long is my court appearance going to take?
It depends on the nature of the case, the number of witnesses scheduled and the extent of your testimony. There may also be more than one matter booked for that time.

What should I wear?
Wear what is comfortable but your appearance should be clean, neat and conservative.

What happens if he/she is found not guilty?
The case is over unless the Crown appeals.

How do I appeal a verdict of not guilty?
Only the Crown can appeal a not guilty verdict and only when the judge has made a legal error in handling the case. Crown Attorneys routinely review cases involving a not guilty verdict to determine whether there are grounds for appeal. But you should know that these appeals are rare.

How did he/she get house arrest?
The judge decides the sentence. The judge considers the circumstances of the offence, the circumstances of the offender, the impact of the offence on the victim and what the law says before deciding on a sentence. A conditional sentence –- commonly referred to as house arrest –- is an option the judge can consider. Ask the Crown Attorney to explain the sentence and the basis for it.

Why was court adjourned?
There could be any number of reasons. Ask the Crown Attorney.

When is the next court date?
Ask the Crown Attorney.

What can I do if I disagree with the judge's decision?
Discuss the matter with the Crown Attorney.

What can I do if I disagree with the Crown Attorney's decision?
Ask the Crown Attorney to explain the decision. If you are still not satisfied, write a letter to the Public Prosecution Service.

How do I get the defendant to pay my damages?
During the investigation, the police may ask you to fill out a form requesting restitution. This form will be attached to the documentation given to the Crown Attorney. If the accused is convicted and certain circumstances apply, the Crown can request restitution. But you may also have the option to proceed on a civil basis. To do so, you may wish to speak to a lawyer.

For more information on how to access restitution go to: http://www.novascotia.ca/just/victim_Services/forms.asp.

Are there services available for victims of crime? How do I access these services?
Yes. The Victims' Services Division of the Nova Scotia Department of Justice is available to support victims of crime. You may contact Victims' Services at http://www.novascotia.ca/just/victim_Services/contact.asp.

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If you are a witness in a criminal proceeding you may be asking these questions:

I've witnessed a crime or I have information about a crime. What should I do?
Call the police and report what you've seen or what you know.

Will a Crown Attorney want to see me before court?
Yes. Depending on the nature of the case, it may be well in advance of the court appearance or not until the day of the court appearance.

I just got served a subpoena. What is it? And what do I do now?
A subpoena is a document issued by the court directing you to appear in court at a certain date and time. You will have to come to court in compliance with the subpoena. If you received the subpoena to testify as a witness for the Crown, you should call the Crown Attorney first to review the evidence you'll be giving.

I didn't really see anything. Why am I being subpoenaed?
Even though you don't consider your testimony to be important, the Crown Attorney may need your testimony to help prove some aspect of the case. Ask the Crown Attorney what questions you'll be asked.

What should I bring with me to court?
If you need to bring anything into the courtroom, the Crown will let you know in advance. You'll probably have to wait before you are called into court so you may want to bring something to read while you're waiting.

What if I don't show up for court?
A warrant may be issued for your arrest.

I remember some things I forgot in my original statement to police. What should I do?
Tell the Crown Attorney. The Crown may request that the police obtain another statement from you.

Do I get paid to testify?
Witnesses are entitled to a nominal fee (around $6) for every day spent in court plus mileage one way. An application form is available at the Crown Attorney's office.

Am I entitled to expert witness fees?
If you are an "expert" witness, called not because of your personal involvement with the case, but because of your expertise in a specific area of science or medicine, for example, you will be able to bill the Crown for the time you spend examining evidence and testifying.

What about expenses like airfare and accommodation? Are they covered?
Yes, with pre-approval by the Crown Attorney.

How do I claim my fees or expenses?
The Crown Attorney will provide you with the appropriate forms.

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If you are an accused person in a criminal proceeding you might be asking some of these questions:

I've been charged with a crime by the police. What happens next?
Normally, the police will provide you with written direction to appear in court for arraignment—having the charge read to you. You may also be required to go to the police station for fingerprinting.

Who represents my interests?
You may retain a defence lawyer or you may be eligible for a Legal Aid lawyer, provided at public expense. You also have the option to represent yourself.

Can the charges against me be dropped before I go to court? How?
It is up to the Crown Attorney whether the case will go ahead. The Crown Attorney will proceed if the evidence points to a realistic prospect of conviction and it is in the public interest to prosecute.

What happens if I plead not guilty?
A date for trial will be set.

What happens if I plead guilty?
A sentencing hearing will be held. It may be held immediately or court may be adjourned after a date for a sentencing hearing is set.

If I no longer live in Nova Scotia how do I get charges against me transferred to where I now live?
The matter can only be transferred if you intend to plead guilty. Consult a lawyer in the province or territory in which you now live.

How do I get charges against me in another province transferred to Nova Scotia?
The matter can only be transferred if you intend to plead guilty. Consult a lawyer in Nova Scotia or contact your local Crown Attorney's office to request the appropriate form.

I am representing myself in court. How do I get my court papers (disclosure)?
Contact the Crown Attorney's office. The office usually requires a two day notice. You must pick up your disclosure package in person after presenting two pieces of identification.

I have a lawyer. How do I get disclosure?
Your lawyer will handle that.

I can't get an appointment with my lawyer until after my first court date. What should I do?
If you don't come to court, a warrant for your arrest may be issued. If you appear in court you will have an opportunity to explain to the judge your efforts to hire a lawyer.

I forgot about my court date and missed it. What do I do?
Call your lawyer. If you don't have one, call the court office.

I'm sick (or have a family emergency) and cannot make it to court today. What should I do?
Call your lawyer. If you don't have a lawyer, call the court office. A warrant could be issued for your arrest if you don't appear and if you don't contact anyone to explain your absence.

I think there's an outstanding warrant for me. How do I find out?
Call the court office.

If I appear on a warrant what will happen?
You will be taken into custody. There may be an immediate bail hearing to decide upon your release or detention.

The records show there is a warrant but it should have been cancelled. What do I do?
Only a judge is able to cancel a warrant. Contact the court office or the Crown Attorney for assistance.

How do I pay a fine?
Check with the court.

How do I apply for a pardon?
Contact the National Parole Board.


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Comments to: hansence@gov.ns.ca /2003-Apr-23

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