Summary Conviction vs Indictable Criminal Offences

Summary Conviction vs Indictable Criminal Offences

If you’ve been charged with a Criminal Offence, you’ve probably come across the terms “Summary Conviction” and “Indictment“.  Often, this legal terminology will appear on a page, usually referred to as a Charge Screening Form, located at the front of your disclosure package.

The Charge Screening Form will indicate how the Crown Attorney intends to proceed on your charges – either by Summary Conviction or by Indictment.   But what do these terms mean?

There are 3 types of criminal offences:  Pure Summary Conviction offences; Pure Indictable offences and Hybrid offences.”

“Straight” or “pure” Summary Offences are usually the least serious offences found in the Criminal Code of Canada.   These offences, generally speaking, carry a maximum punishment of a $5,000 fine and/or imprisonment for 6 months.

“Straight” Indictable Offences, by contrast, are generally the most serious crimes, such as Murder, Robbery, Aggravated Assault, etc. These offences generally carry with them the most serious punishments.

Finally, there are offences referred to as “Hybrid” offences.  A Hybrid offences allows the Crown Attorney to elect (choose) whether to proceed by Summary Conviction or by Indictment.  The choice to proceed one way versus the other carries certain, very important implications for the accused, including:  (a) whether s/he is entitled to a Preliminary Hearing; (b) the maximum punishments available; (c) the types of sentences available, and so forth.  The majority of criminal offences fall into this category.

One of the key distinctions between a straight Summary Conviction offence and an offence that is either “straight” indictable (or one for which the Crown can elect to proceed by indictment) is that, while there is a limitation period for Summary offences, there is no limitation period for indictable offences.    The police must charge someone with a straight summary offence within 6 months of the alleged offence date.

For more information about categories of offences, contact Andrew Captan at [email protected]

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