Total Length of Delay

Although it is not set in stone, courts generally allow a maximum of 18 months between the date the offence was committed and the trial date. Anything longer will be inherently unreasonable.

If you are in custody, subject to restrictive bail conditions or experience substantial prejudice then the 18 month guideline should be shortened. On the other hand, if you are charged under Part 1 of the Provincial Offences Act and all you face is a monetary fine and you have been simply waiting for your day in court, then the 18 month guideline will apply since you have experienced little prejudice.

Intake and Institutional Delay

The 18 months is broken into two components. First a maximum of eight to ten months for intake, that is, the inherent time required to prepare a case for trial.

Second, courts then give an additional six to eight month allowance for institutional delay. Institutional delay is when both parties are ready for trial but the system cannot accommodate them.

Note that either component can be unusually long while the other could be short. The court will look at whether, together, the delay was longer than 18 months. For example, intake could take 14 months, but the institutional delay could be only three months. Seventeen months is below the 18 month maximum. This amount of time could be considered reasonable.


The key point here is to note that amount of time intake requires varies depending on the charge. Courts allow up to 10 months for this. Note the emphasis on "up to". Ten months would be required for very complex cases, where wire taps have to be transcribed, where an out of town justice has to be brought in, where expert witnesses need to be found.

Is your case that complex? If not, then you can make a strong argument that intake should be relatively short (two months perhaps) and anything beyond that should count toward an unreasonable delay.

For example, if it takes 14 months for your speeding ticket to go to trial, up to eight months can be deducted for institutional delay. That leaves six months for intake. But a speeding ticket is straightforward. It's not complex and the inherent time required for intake should be relatively short, perhaps two months. That leaves a four month unreasonable delay that the prosecutor has to explain.

She has to explain why this delay is reasonable. Typically she will claim that the courts and prosecutors are overworked and overwhelmed. Which brings us to limitations of the court's resources.

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