How a show cause hearing works

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When people are arrested there are a few things that can happen to them before they end up before a judge.

One of those options is to go before a justice of the peace for a show cause hearing, which is otherwise known as a bail hearing.

Show cause hearings are held to determine if someone who is accused of a crime should be held in custody until their case is dealt with by the courts.

A few things can happen during a show cause hearing.

In P.E.I., more often than not, the person going before the justice of the peace is released under several conditions, such as having to check in with the police every week or avoid contact with certain people.

But sometimes they’re held in custody and that can happen through a hearing or by the accused consenting to remain in jail.

Every time I write a story about someone consenting to remain in custody there are people who question why the accused has a choice in the matter.

Just because someone consents to stay in custody it doesn’t mean they would have been able to walk free.

It just shortens the process and avoids a hearing.

I compare the process to getting a parking ticket.

You can go to city hall and pay your fine willingly or you can fight it.

Maybe you’ll win and not have to pay. Maybe you’ll fight it, lose and still have to pay.

You could have avoided that second scenario by just agreeing to pay the ticket, but either way the outcome is the same.

That’s what happens when someone consents to stay in custody. Just because they agree doesn’t necessarily mean they would have been set free if they hadn’t consented.

It’s up to them to decide if it’s worth arguing about.

So why would someone consent to stay in custody if they could argue their way out of it until their case is heard?

First of all a show cause hearing doesn’t determine any facts in the case and just because someone ends up before a justice of the peace doesn’t mean they will ever be found guilty.

Another reason is that people who are held in jail and later found guilty get credit for time served, sometimes even getting a little extra credit, which means they spend less time in custody overall.

If they think they might be facing jail time it would make sense for someone to consent to remain in custody, especially if there’s a possibility of doing federal time in a prison off-Island.

Every day they spend in custody waiting for their case to play out is one less day they have to spend in jail after they’re sentenced.

I’ve never spent any time in jail, but I imagine people who do want every break from it they can get.

 

rross@theguardian.pe.ca

twitter.com/ryanrross

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