Jays From the Couch presents a guest post that sheds light on the process Roberto Osuna could be going through after his arrest
[Ed. Note: This is a guest post submitted by Alison Craig, a defense attorney and partner (and Blue Jays fan) at LCP]
I am two things: a criminal defence lawyer and an enormous baseball fan. It’s rare that my two worlds collide. Unfortunately for the Blue Jays and their fans, those two worlds collided last month when Roberto Osuna was arrested and charged with assault.
Since his arrest I have read and heard a lot of speculation and misinformation about what lies ahead for Osuna, and what can be gleaned from what we know (which is very little). As a full time criminal defence lawyer, nothing annoys me more than misinformation about the justice system. So, I thought I’d do my best to lay out in simple terms what to expect in the coming weeks and months.
Osuna’s first court appearance is scheduled for June 18. It seems that many people expect something significant to happen that day. I can all but assure you that nothing will.
In Canada – unlike in the United States – an accused person does not enter a plea at their first court appearance. In fact, Osuna is unlikely to even attend. He will have retained a lawyer by then who will appear on his behalf. I am always amused at the gaggle of reporters that invariably attend court appearances for public figures only to leave disappointed when they’re not there. If you’re hoping to catch a glimpse of Osuna in court on June 18, don’t waste your time.
An accused (or their lawyer) generally makes several court appearances in what’s colloquially known as “set date court” before anything of substance happens in a case. Set date court is essentially an administrative court where lawyers make brief appearances to collect disclosure from the Crown Attorney’s office. Disclosure refers to copies of all of the evidence that the police have gathered in a case, such as witness statements, police notes, 911 calls, surveillance videos, and medical records.
The Crown Attorney is required to give a copy of everything to the defence, and a case will not move forward in the system until that has been done. The length of time it takes for that to happen depends on the nature and complexity of the case. Even in a straight forward assault case like Osuna’s, it usually takes more than one court appearance.
Once disclosure has been provided to the defence, the Crown and defence lawyers will meet to discuss the case. After that a judicial pretrial is often scheduled, which is essentially a meeting with the lawyers and a judge to discuss sentencing positions should the accused choose to plead guilty, and how much court time will be required should the accused choose to set a trial date.
All of the above takes time – at the very least several weeks, and more likely several months. At that point, a date can be set for either a guilty plea or a trial. If a trial date is set, it will be several more months away. For relatively minor charges like Osuna’s, which are tried in the Ontario Court of Justice (as opposed to with a jury in the Superior Court of Justice) the Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that a trial date can be up to 18 months after an accused is charged.
What does all of this mean for Osuna? It means that a resolution of his criminal charge is likely many months – if not more – away.
I say all of this with the typical lawyer caveat that there are exceptions to every rule. It is possible, for example, that Osuna’s lawyer will have spoken to the assigned Crown Attorney in advance of the first court date in an effort to expedite the process, but that is unlikely. The wheels of our justice system move slowly.
In addition to the speculation about Osuna’s first court appearance, there has been plenty of conjecture and misguided opinions about the nature of the allegations themselves. The truth is, we can tell very little at this point, and it is both dangerous and unfair to everyone involved to speculate.
Given my experience, however, I can make several general observations based on what we do know. Simple assault, which is what Osuna is charged with, is the least serious assault charge there is. If significant injuries of any sort were alleged, he would have been charged with either assault causing bodily harm or aggravated assault, both of which would result in much more severe penalties. In addition, he is only charged with one count of assault rather than several, which suggests that the allegation relates to an isolated incident rather than any alleged pattern of abuse.
The conditions of Osuna’s bail require him to stay away from his home address and to refrain from contacting the complainant. I have heard several people make a rather big deal out of those conditions, suggesting that they mean the complainant is afraid of Osuna or that he is seen as an ongoing threat. If you take only one thing away from this article, please let it be this: they mean nothing of the sort.
They are standard bail conditions for almost every charge in the Criminal Code of Canada. If you are accused of a crime, you will almost inevitably be ordered not to have any contact with the complainant and to refrain from going to where the complainant lives, works, or is known to be. The one thing we can glean from that condition is that the complainant appears to live with Osuna. Otherwise he would be allowed to return home.
Lastly, Osuna’s bail requires him to abstain from the purchase, possession, or consumption of alcohol. That suggests that he is accused of having been under the influence of alcohol at the time of the alleged offence. It is not a standard bail condition unless the alleged offence involves the consumption of alcohol.
If Osuna is eventually found guilty, the range of possible sentences is broad. In a general sense, for first time offenders facing simple assault charges, jail is unlikely. He would most likely be given a period of probation, and may well be granted a conditional discharge which means that despite being found guilty, a conviction would not be entered and he would have no criminal record after the expiration of his probation. For someone whose profession requires them to travel across international borders, a discharge rather than a conviction is important. A conviction can make travel to the United States difficult, whereas a discharge does not.
While any allegation of assault is serious, please remember this: the presumption of innocence is one of the most basic and fundamental principles of our justice system, and for good reason. False allegations can and do happen – with alarming regularity. Far too often people seem to presume guilt, with devastating consequences to the lives of the accused. So please reserve judgment and let the process run its course. Although the justice system can be frustratingly slow, some things in life are bigger than baseball. Just like important calls on the field, it’s important to make sure we get them right.
*Featured Image Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase.
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Shaun Doyle is a long time Blue Jays fan and writer! He decided to put those things together and create Jays From the Couch. Shaun is the host of Jays From the Couch Radio, which is highly ranked in iTunes, and he has appeared on TV and radio spots.