Trial Preparation Checklist

From Criminal Law Notebook

Trial Preparation Checklist

See also: Precedents, Court Forms and Checklists

Witness Preparation

  • ensure witnesses are aware of trial date and purpose by phone, letter or email
  • ensure subpoenas for witnesses are issued (consider whether for provincial vs superior court)
    • if national or international subpoena needed, apply to supreme court
    • if international consider whether visas are needed
  • make arrangements for out-of-town witnesses (transportation and accommodation)
  • copies of criminal record of witnesses (such as CPIC printout)
  • provide witnesses with chance to review exhibits (images, documents, records, transcripts)
  • notify witnesses of trial booking and likely timeline of trial
  • verify whether counsel has any legal conflicts with witness
  • give/show copies of statements to witnesses so that they can review in a reasonable amount of time
  • where practical, have an observer present at meetings to ensure no dispute on what was discussed
  • new information from witness may require the taking of a new statement from that witness
  • never suggest an answer to a witness on any essential aspects of evidence, especially eye-witness identification[1]
Expert Witnesses
  • meet with expert at least once to review opinions / familiarize counsel with technical issues
  • verify with expert the field of expertise being sought for qualification
Police Witnesses
  • Confirm officer has access to their reports and notes. Ensure that they review and bring all their materials with them.
Special Witnesses
  • if child or other vulnerable witness, arrange for multiple meetings in the months before to gain comfort with the child and rapport.
  • book interpreter for meetings and court (if court is arranging, be sure they have done so)

Preparing Client (Defence Only)

  • Notice to Client of Trial Date and duration
  • Scheduling of appointments to meet with client
Client's Decision to Testify
  • Review client's prior statements
  • Ensure client has reviewed evidence, including exhibits, that may be showed to him in trial
  • Explain the damaging evidence may be presented in cross-examination
  • Warn of risks of putting his character in issue
Preparations for Cross-examination

Pre-Trial Applications (Non-Charter)

  • Application for Publication Bans
  • Application to prohibit self-represented from Cross-examining alleged victim (Crown or Witness only)
  • Application for Rowbotham counsel (self-represented only)
  • Application for Audio/Video-link testimony


Legally required notices are in bold

Notice to Opposing Counsel
  • notice of any outstanding disclosure / completion of disclosure
  • notice of expert evidence, including area of qualification, copy of expert's resume, and can-say (30 days)
  • notice to admit business documents (7 days)
  • notice to admit financial records
  • notice to admit court orders (only some require it)
  • expert report forwarded to other party (usually approx 30 days)
  • notice of charter applications (usually approx 30 days)
  • notice to admit wiretap evidence (requires "reasonable notice", see s. 189(5) and Admitting Wiretap Evidence)
  • notice of any applications (e.g. amendments to information, accused sitting at counsel table)
  • notice seeking agreement on facts
  • notice seeking agreement on issues of law (basic elements of proof, continuity, voluntariness of statements, blended voir dires)
  • notice of any agreed or uncontested facts
  • notice of any agreed / conceded issues of law (basic elements of proof, continuity, voluntariness of statements, blended voir dires)
  • notice to witnesses that they should bring certain records or other evidence
  • notice to court of A/V equipment needed
  • notice to court of extra security needed
Witnesses/3rd Parties
  • notice for subpoenas have been sent
  • ensure that subpoenaed documents have been issued (within reasonable time)
  • ensure that witnesses are aware of trial date(s)
  • notice to investigator of due date for having all evidence complete and trial date
  • notify other 3rd parties of due date and trial dates (e.g. transcribers, experts, or other interested parties)
  • notice by crown to police investigator of any dropping of charges with reasons and any considered plea agreements
For Crown
  • Notify defence of intended use of any inculpatory statements (not legally required)
  • Request position on the admissibility of anticipated tendered evidence (not legally required), including CEA notice, voluntariness
For Defence
  • Request position on what documents (or other any exhibits) are being relied upon to make out offence

Crown Request for Concessions

See also: Precedent - Crown Letter re Admissions


  • ensure that any A/V recordings have been sent for transcription with a scheduled completion date
  • have expert send counsel a copy of their resume
  • ensure that experts have due dates on reports being written
  • ensure that any investigators have completed collection of evidence
  • review all records, documents and real evidence that may be put to each witness, consider whether they should be exhibits. Consider how each can be authenticated.
  • ensure that there are four copies (original, crown, defence, judge copies) for all potential documents to be used (e.g. transcripts of audio statements, court proceedings, witness statements, police notes, photographs, records, expert's resume)
  • consider making an exhibit book, organized by witness or as one large book.

Trial Counsel's Materials

See also: Motions Chart and Examination Checklist
Trial Book
  • checklist of information to put on the record prior to the commencement of trial (e.g. agreement of facts, non-contested issues, time estimations, order of witnesses, duration of witnesses, number of voir dires, whether voir dires are blended)
  • checklist of motions for prior to the commencement of trial
  • checklist of information that you want to put on the record prior to the close of counsel's evidence (e.g. expectations on rebuttal evidence, time expectation)
  • checklist of motions for prior to the closing of counsel's part of their case
  • briefs on the law and supporting case law
  • list of witnesses with synopsis of their relevant evidence
  • outline of proof for each charge, connection with each witness and exhibit
  • examination outlines for each witness
  • opening/closing outline
  • pads of paper
  • pens, highlighters, markers
In Court Equipment
  • Criminal Code, textbooks
  • laptop + power cable
  • connector for large screen
  • Riser / Stand for materials
Out of Court Items
  • change for snack machine, parking meter, toll booths, etc.
  • cell phone (for calling office or witnesses)
Health Breaks
  • snacks, lozenges
  • medications

At Court Preparation

Court Presentation
  • examine technology set-up and test to ensure it is working properly
  • verify all exhibits and trial counsel material are present
  • consider pre-marking exhibits


  • verify witnesses and interpreters are present and ready
  • canvas with witnesses any potential conflicting obligations that may affect the case (e.g. police officer who is double booked between two trials)
  • notify witnesses of likely timeline of trial
  • review any last minute developments with client / witnesses
  • provide witnesses with last chance to review exhibits (statements, images, documents, records, transcripts)

Preliminary Inquiry

Types of Witnesses Needed (Crown only)
  • Necessary witnesses to prove elements of the offence on Sheppard standard
  • Necessary witnesses to prove the continuity of exhibits
  • Necessary witnesses to prove voluntariness of any inculpatory statements beyond a reasonable doubt

Specific Offences

Sexual Offences

  • complainant's notified of privacy interest in records
  • complainant's notified of right to counsel
  • obtain waiver of privacy from complainant

Conveyance Offences

  • certificate of analysis

See also

  • Baum, Art of Advocacy: Preparation
  • Manes & Edwards, Organized Advocacy, 2d ed. (Toronto:Carswell, 1988) Form 12-2
  • F. Lee Bailey, Fundamentals of Criminal Advocacy (Rochester: The Lawyers Co-op, 1974)
  • F. Lee Bailey, Investigation and Preparation of Criminal Cases (Rochester: The Lawyers Co-op, 1985)
  • Justice Saunders, Reflections on the Art ... and Science of Decision-Making [1]
Theory of the case