What happens at a resolution meeting or pre-trial?
When a criminal defence lawyer meets with a prosecutor (a Crown Attorney) to formally discuss a case, it is known as a Crown pre-trial or Crown Resolution Meeting. These meetings are mandatory in all Toronto courthouses and most other jurisdictions. The primary purpose of these meetings is for the criminal defence lawyer and the Crown Attorney to decide on time estimates for a trial or preliminary hearing. Crown pre-trials are also routinely held in cases that never actually proceed to trial because discussions about resolution will also occur at these meetings.
A Crown Attorney will generally provide the criminal defence lawyer with a Crown position on what type of sentence they would be seeking at the Crown pre-trial. The term “resolution” refers to resolving the criminal charges by some means other than a trial. Possible resolutions could include charges being withdrawn, the accused person entering into a peace bond or completing some form of diversion in exchange for having charges withdrawn, or a plea of guilty in exchange for a particular sentence or sentence range.
Adam Weisberg guarantees that every Crown pre-trial will be attended after having thoroughly discussed the case with the client and after carefully reviewing disclosure. An understanding of both the case and the client is essential to negotiating effectively at a Crown pre-trial. In some cases, an effective lawyer can use the circumstances of the accused and/or the alleged offence to persuade the Crown Attorney to withdraw the charges at this stage.
If the Crown Attorney offers a position on a resolution, a criminal defence lawyer has a duty to relay that offer to the client. Clients must realize that their lawyer is obligated to inform them of resolution offers. This obligation the lawyer has must not be confused by the client as an indication that the lawyer does not believe in the client’s innocence.
An effective criminal lawyer will be able to use the Crown pre-trial to make critical decisions about how the trial or preliminary hearing will proceed. In appropriate cases, strategic concessions can be made during the pre-trial that will work to the client’s advantage tactically or conserve court time to make the matter more cost effective.
In Toronto, if a trial is going to go on longer than a day, a judicial pre-trial also becomes mandatory in many of the courthouses.