Understanding Your Right to a Trial Within a Reasonable Time: Insights from R v. Jordan

If you find yourself navigating the complexities of the criminal justice system, you’re likely grappling with not just the nuances of the law, but also with the uncertainty and stress that come with facing criminal charges. Among your roster of rights, one of the most fundamental is the right to have your case heard within a reasonable timeframe. This right is enshrined in section 11(b) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and was brought to public prominence by the landmark Supreme Court decision in R v. Jordan.

The Jordan ruling has altered the landscape of Canadian criminal law, setting a landmark precedent that balances the scales between the effectiveness of the judiciary and the rights of the defendant. At the heart of this decision is the understanding that justice delayed can very well mean justice denied. The Supreme Court of Canada’s message is clear: the criminal justice system must respect the time of the individual who stands accused, just as it must uphold the public interest in administering justice swiftly.

In the coming sections, we will delve into the essence of the right to a trial within a reasonable time, the implications of the Jordan decision for your case, and what steps you can take if you believe this right is being compromised. Whether you’re awaiting trial or are in the midst of legal proceedings, understanding the Jordan framework will empower you with knowledge that is imperative for defending your rights and for navigating your way through the criminal justice system with informed conviction.

The Significance of a Speedy Trial in Criminal Law

The right to a trial within a reasonable time is more than a mere procedural formality; it is a substantive right that safeguards the dignity, liberty, and security of individuals accused of a crime. The anxiety, strain, and public scrutiny that accompany criminal charges can be profound, affecting not only your present circumstances but also casting a long shadow over your future. The Charter’s section 11(b) seeks to mitigate these stresses by ensuring that you do not languish indefinitely in the shadow of unresolved criminal charges.

A speedy trial is essential for preserving the integrity of the justice system as well. It helps maintain public confidence in the administration of justice by preventing undue delay that can skew the outcomes of legal proceedings. Memory fades, witnesses become unavailable, and evidence can deteriorate over time; all of which can impede the chance of a fair trial.

Furthermore, for those who are detained pending trial, the right under section 11(b) is a tacit acknowledgment that pre-trial detention should be the exception, not the norm. Extended pre-trial detention not only impacts an individual’s ability to prepare a defence but also has significant personal ramifications—ranging from emotional and psychological stress to practical consequences like job loss and family separation.

The Jordan Standard: A Benchmark for Reasonable Delay

The 2016 Supreme Court decision in R v. Jordan set a new threshold for what constitutes a reasonable delay. In this seminal case, the Court acknowledged that the justice system had become complacent regarding trial delays and set out to define clear standards to address this systemic issue.

Prior to Jordan, the assessment of reasonableness was often unpredictable and hinged on a multitude of factors. The Jordan ruling simplified this by establishing a presumptive ceiling: 18 months for cases tried in provincial courts and 30 months for cases in superior courts. If the prosecution cannot bring the case to trial within these time limits, the delay is presumed to be unreasonable, and the burden shifts to the Crown to justify it.

Delays attributable to the defence or discrete events that are outside the control of the judicial system do not count towards these ceilings.

Evaluating Delays: Understanding the ‘Net Delay’ Concept

For anyone awaiting trial, the concept of ‘net delay’ introduced in the Jordan decision is crucial. The net delay is calculated by subtracting any defence delays and exceptional circumstances from the total delay. For instance, if you waive your right to a trial date to secure a preferred lawyer, that period is excluded from the calculation. Should the net delay exceed the ceiling, your right under section 11(b) may have been infringed.

What Jordan Means for You as the Accused

What the Jordan decision means for individuals facing criminal charges is that there is now a tangible measure for trial timelines. If delays edge towards the prescribed ceiling without just cause, you may have grounds to file a stay of proceedings — effectively, a request to halt the prosecution due to unreasonable delay.

This strengthened emphasis on timing puts the onus not only on the courts but also on Crown prosecutors and defence attorneys to keep proceedings moving efficiently. For you, as the accused, it’s a reassurance that the judiciary has a check to prevent protracted legal uncertainty, enabling your life to resume with fairness and swiftness.

In the next section, we’ll provide some practical advice on what steps you can take if you’re concerned about trial delays and how to advocate for your right to a trial within a reasonable time.

The Crucial Role of Experienced Legal Counsel in Addressing Trial Delays

If you are facing criminal charges, it is imperative to have a skilled and experienced criminal lawyer by your side, like the lawyers at Nadi Law. While you have rights under the law, including the right to a trial within a reasonable time, navigating the intricacies of these legal protections often requires professional expertise and advocacy.

Why Hire a Criminal Lawyer?

  • Expert Guidance: An experienced criminal lawyer can explain your rights and the relevance of the Jordan ruling to your case in detail.
  • Proactive Representation: Your lawyer will monitor the progress of your case against the established timelines and will be vigilant in protecting your right to a timely trial.
  • Strategic Actions: If there are concerning delays, your lawyer can take a strategic approach by filing motions and advocating on your behalf in court.

Collaborating with Your Lawyer

Communication with your legal counsel is key. Discuss any worries you have about the time it is taking for your case to proceed. Your lawyer is there to act as your voice in the justice system and will advise you on the best course of action if your right to a trial within a reasonable time frame is at risk.

Moving Forward with Legal Proceedings

Your lawyer will be the one to:

  • Track the Timeline: Meticulously record court dates, filing deadlines, and any adjournments.
  • Assert Your Rights in Court: Formally address the court regarding the timely progression of your case.
  • Prepare and Argue Motions: If necessary, prepare and argue an 11(b) application to address delays, seeking remedies such as a stay of proceedings if your case has been unreasonably prolonged.

When to Seek Legal Help

If you are concerned about how long your case is taking or suspect that your right to a reasonable trial timeline is being compromised, the time to seek legal help is now. Do not wait until the delay has become excessive; securing experienced legal counsel early on ensures that your rights are vigilantly upheld throughout the legal process.


As someone facing the considerable weight of criminal charges, you should not also have to bear the burden of excessive trial delays. The right to have your case heard within a reasonable time is fundamental, and the stakes are too high to leave to chance. By entrusting your case to a seasoned criminal lawyer, like the lawyers at Nadi Law, you can be confident that your rights under section 11(b) will be actively asserted and defended. The Jordan decision has set the stage for timely justice—make sure you have the right advocate by your side to bring that promise to fruition.  Please contact our office today at 905-668-9422 if you have any questions.

How can we help you?

Contact us at the Nadi Law office or submit a inquiry online.