Can The Complainant Drop Charges in Canada?

In Legal Articles by Linden Schwark

In Canada, unlike the United States, it is not up to the complainant to decide whether a prosecution proceeds or is dropped.

Once a criminal charge is laid, it is up to the discretion of the Crown Prosecutor whether the matter proceeds. The Crown Prosecutor will take into consideration the interests of the complainant and whether they want the prosecution to be dropped. However, the complainant’s desires are in no way determinative. Many cases proceed regardless of whether the complainant cooperates.

Even if a complainant does not want the prosecution to proceed and does not want to testify, the prosecutor may nonetheless refuse to drop the charges and proceed to trial. An uncooperative complaint can still be ordered to show up to the trial and be ordered to testify. If the complainant is uncooperative and refuses to testify at trial, the complainant can be imprisoned. If the complainant refuses to show up to trial after receiving a subpoena, they can be charged with a criminal offence and prosecuted for a failure to appear in court charge.

If you are facing a criminal prosecution where the complainant wants the charges dropped, it is still critical to retain the best criminal defence lawyer you can afford to assist you in increasing the chances of avoiding a criminal conviction.