How Does Bail Work?

You or someone you love has been arrested for a criminal offence. Quite likely your first question will be, how do I (or my loved one) get released from police custody?

When you are arrested by a police officer he/she has a great deal of discretion as to how they will deal with you. He/She can choose to release you on a Promise to Appear (PTA), with or without an Undertaking, he/she can consent to your release by a Justice of the Peace, or he/she can seek to have you detained in custody until you appear in Court.

If you are released on a PTA, without an Undertaking, you are obliged to appear in Court on the specified date and any subsequent dates as ordered by the Court. There is no requirement that you deposit cash bail or comply with any conditions.

If you are released on a PTA with an Undertaking, you have the same obligation to appear in Court, but you are also obliged to adhere to the conditions placed upon you by the Undertaking. There is no requirement that you deposit cash bail.

Individuals not released on a PTA, with or without an Undertaking, will be taken before a Justice of the Peace (JP) to speak to bail. These hearings are typically conducted via teleconference from the Hearing Office in downtown Edmonton. Before the JP, you have the choice to speak to bail or ask that bail be deferred until you have a chance to retain legal counsel. In most cases if you defer speaking to bail until you can obtain counsel you will be detained in custody overnight until you can appear in Court. If you choose to speak to bail before the JP he/she can grant you bail with or without cash deposit, with or without conditions, he/she can adjourn your bail hearing at the request of the Crown or yourself, or he/she can deny you bail.

If you are granted bail without a cash deposit, you will be released upon entering into a recognizance. You are then bound by the conditions of that recognizance, including a condition that you appear in Court on a specified date. The JP will state that you are released on a specified amount of “no cash” deposit. This means that there is no requirement that you deposit cash bail, but if you breach the conditions of your recognizance, you may be liable to pay the “no cash” amount.

If you are granted bail with a cash deposit, you will remain in custody until that money is deposited by you or by someone else on your behalf. If someone else is depositing the money for you, they must attend at the Hearing Office in downtown Edmonton to pay via cash, debit or credit. Once the cash deposit has been paid, you will be released from custody upon your entering into a recognizance to abide by the outlined conditions, one of which will include that you appear in Court on a specified date.

If you are denied bail by the JP, you will remain in custody until you are either granted bail in the Court of Queen’s Bench or the Crown consents to re-open your bail and you are granted bail by a Provincial Court Judge.