Going to Court - Adult Accused

Last updated on June 8, 2021

After you are charged with a criminal offence, unless you are referred to alternative measures, you will have to appear in court.

It is important to remember that, even if you are charged with committing a crime, you are considered innocent until proven guilty. For the court to convict you, Crown counsel must prove you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. If the court has a reasonable doubt after it has heard all of the evidence, you will be found “not guilty” by the court.

Court Appearance Notices

If you are required to appear in court, you will receive a document telling you the date, time and location you must attend. This will be an appearance notice, summons, warrant, officer in charge recognizance or promise to appear.

Appearance Notice and Summons

Both an appearance notice and a summons are official notices telling you that you must appear in court at a specific time and place to respond to a criminal charge.  If you do not go to court when the document says you should, a warrant may be issued for your arrest and you could be charged with an offence (failing to appear).

You may be given an appearance notice if the crime is less serious (such as theft under $5,000). Usually, it is a police officer who gives you an appearance notice.

Sometimes, when the police do not arrest you immediately, they recommend to Crown counsel that charges be laid. They may request that you either be arrested or that you be served with a summons requiring you to attend court on a specific date and time. You may receive a summons in the mail.

Promise to Appear

If the crime you committed is more serious or police are concerned about whether you will attend court, you may be released from custody on a promise to appear or promise to appear with an attached undertaking given to a peace officer.

The promise to appear is a written document by which you promise to appear in court on a specific date and time. The attached undertaking will contain additional promises made by you. These are conditions you must follow while released. The conditions may include things such as staying away from a certain address or not contacting a specific person. If these conditions are not obeyed, police will arrest you and bring you before a judge for a bail hearing.

Officer-in-Charge Recognizance

An officer –in-charge recognizance is like a promise to appear, but it indicates you may have to pay a sum of money if you do not appear in court. You may have to make a cash deposit if you live more than 200 km from where you are to appear in court.


A warrant is written permission given by a judge to carry out a certain action. If police have a warrant for your arrest, they must show or tell you about the warrant (often the police do not have the warrant with them). Police may or may not need a warrant for your arrest, depending on the seriousness of the crime and the situation.

More Information

For more information, see the following sections on this website:

Jury Duty

A jury is a group of people who decide if an accused person in a criminal trial is guilty or if a claim in a civil trial has been proven. Learn more about jury duty.

Criminal Justice Glossary

Check our alphabetical list of criminal justice terms along with their definitions.