When most people think of bail, they usually think of a sum of money paid to ensure a person’s release from jail. However, bail actually refers to the right of an accused individual to be released from police custody. Money may be involved, but this is only one form of bail, and if the accused complies with the conditions of release, this money is refunded.
Following arrest for a criminal offence under the Criminal Code, which applies across Canada, an accused person may simply be released until their next scheduled court appearance. However, depending on the circumstances, it is possible the person may have to remain in police custody until he or she can appear before a judge. Section 503 of the Criminal Code states that a person who has been arrested must appear before a judge within 24 hours, or as soon as possible if a judge is not available within 24 hours (s. 503(1)(a) and (b)). The purpose of this first appearance is to have the charges against the accused person read out in court and to make sure that the accused person understands the charges against him or her.