There are a number of steps in bringing a criminal case to court. The following is a summary of how charges are initially prosecuted in the criminal justice system. For the purposes of this blog it is assumed that the police have decided to pursue criminal charges against someone. What is next?

Laying Information

In B.C., the Crown counsel decides as to whether to lay a charge or not. In order to make that decision, the Crown counsel will review the report prepared by the police (known as the “Report to Crown counsel” or “RCC”). If there is a “strong likelihood of conviction”, then the Crown counsel will lay an “Information”. This process is known as charge approval. An Information is the same thing as a criminal charge. The police or Crown can then initiate the laying of an information before a Justice of the Peace. The police officer or Crown counsel is known as an “informant” when they appear before a Justice of the Peace to lay an Information.

The Information briefly outlines allegation that a person has contravened a criminal law in a certain location at a certain time. A Justice of the Peace can reject the informant’s case but this is rare.

Not all cases must be brought before a Justice of the Peace immediately. For certain offences, police are authorized to issue summons, traffic offence notices and appearance notices. For example if a police officer catches someone “keying” a car, the officer can issue an appearance notice (explained below) and then the file is provided to the Crown for charge approval.

Compelling The Appearance of The Accused in Court

After a prosecution has been initiated, the next step is ensuring that the accused appears in court to answer the charge. This can be done in a number of ways:

Appearance Notice

If the police catch someone committing a crime (or have evidence of it), then that person will not necessarily be taken into custody. If the offence is not serious and the police trust the accused will appear in court later, an appearance notice may be issued to the accused by the officer. The appearance notice, amongst other things, sets out the charge(s) against the person, the first appearance date in court and a requirement for indictable matters (serious charges) that the accused attend for fingerprinting pursuant to the Identification of Criminals Act. The appearance notice also issues a warning that if the accused person fails to attend court on the specified day, a warrant for their arrest may be issued by a judge.


Another option is for the police is to issue a summons to someone accused of a crime. This is often used after an investigation into criminal wrongdoing where a decision is made to proceed with a criminal prosecution. In some cases, a Justice of the Peace will issue a summons directing the accused person to attend court on a certain day. Again, the summons contains similar provisions to an appearance notice including the stated charges, the date to attend the first appearance and directions for indictable offences to attend for fingerprinting. Again, if the accused does not appear on their court date then a warrant may be issued by a judge. Hence an appearance notice and a summons are very similar.


If the police have cause, then they can arrest a suspect and choose not to release the accused person with an appearance notice or a summons. Police will arrest someone if the criminal charges are very serious or they have grounds to believe the accused will not show attend court if released. Police can also arrest an accused if it is in the “public interest” to detain and hold them (hence, police can detain someone in the public interest where the person cannot be identified (no id for example), in order to preserve evidence or to prevent the repetition of an offence.

If you are under criminal investigation or you believe the police will be serving you with an appearance notice or a summons, call Noah Neaman at 778-881-1785 for a free legal consultation.


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