What Are The Differences Between Summary & Indictable Offences

In Canada, criminal offences are divided into two main categories: summary conviction offences and indictable offences. Every crime in Canada falls under one of these classifications.

Even though these terms are part of the Criminal Code, not all Canadians are familiar with their meaning. On TV shows and movies, it’s more common to hear about felonies or misdemeanors, which refer to offences in the U.S. justice system. 

To learn more about the distinctions between and the ramifications of these offences, keep reading:

Summary Offences

Put simply, summary offences are less severe than indictable ones. Also known as “petty crimes”, they carry with them lighter punishments as well. You do not have the right to a trial by jury if you are charged with a summary offence.

An important difference between a summary offence and an indictable one is the accused does not need to submit fingerprints. In addition, these cases are typically tried in Provincial Court, and charges must be made within a 6 month limitation period after the crime occurs. A lawyer can appear on the accused person’s behalf at the trial.

Examples of summary offences include:

  • Possession of drugs under a certain amount
  • Causing a disturbance
  • Soliciting a prostitute
  • Traffic offences

Even though consequences for summary offences are less severe than indictable offences, they are still significant. The maximum fine that one can receive when charged with a summary offence is $5,000. The maximum jail time that one can be sentenced to is two years less a day. 

You will receive a criminal record if you are charged, which can make it challenging to find housing or employment. Those charged with a summary offence can apply for a pardon after 5 years.

Indictable Offences

For an offence of this degree, the accused person could face life in prison. 

If one is charged with an indictable offence, they have the right to a trial by jury. With an indictable offence, the preliminary hearing is held in Provincial Court, but the trial may be held in the Superior Court depending on the severity. Unlike summary offences, indictable offences do not have a limitation period.

Examples of indictable offences include:

  • Murder
  • Theft
  • Kidnapping
  • Arson
  • Terrorism

With certain crimes, there are minimum penalties that must be adhered to. The individual charged with the offence must appear in court. If one is charged with an indictable offence, they will need to wait up to 10 years to be eligible for a pardon. 

What are Hybrid Offences?

Not all crimes fit distinctly within these two categories. If you are charged with a hybrid offence, it’s up to the Crown to decide if they should proceed with an indictment or summary conviction. Various circumstances can affect the severity of a crime and the discretion of the Crown. 

Here are a few crimes that may be considered hybrid offences:

  • Impaired driving
  • Assault
  • Theft under $5,000

Whether you are charged with a summary, indictable, or hybrid offence, it’s in your best interest to contact criminal lawyers in Winnipeg. The defence lawyers at Brodsky Amy & Gould offer experienced legal representation for several offences. Contact our 24/7 line via call or text, and a lawyer will get back to you shortly.