The Difference between a Summary and Indictable Offence

The Difference between a Summary and Indictable Offence

Criminal offences are divided into three classes of offences. These classes include summary offences, indictable offences and hybrid offences. If you are charged with a criminal offence and the Crown elects to prosecute, it is important to understand the basic differences between a summary and indictable offence.

Hybrid offences are a mix of summary and indictable offences. When a case involves a hybrid offence, the Crown can choose whether to treat the offence as a more serious indictable offence based on the actions of the accused and the harm committed. The class of offence, whether indictable or summary, dictates the seriousness of the offence and influences the level of court, sentencing, and appeal routes.

What is a Summary Offence?

Essentially, a summary offence is a less serious offence. A person charged with a summary offence is usually not arrested unless the accused is found committing the offence. The accused is given the notice to appear before the court on a certain date and time. Charges must be laid within 6 months of the violation.

When charged with a summary offence, your case will be heard before a provincial court, for example, the Ontario Court of Justice. A person charged with a summary conviction offence does not always have to appear in court. They may be represented by a lawyer unless specifically asked by a judge to appear in court. Summary offences carry a maximum prison sentence of two years or a maximum fine of $5000 or both.

What is an Indictable Offence?

An indictable offence involves a more serious criminal offence. A person charged with an indictable offence will be arrested where police have reasonable grounds to believe the person has committed an indictable offence or is about to commit an indictable offence. A person charged with an indictable offence must appear in court.

When charged with an indictable offence, you will appear before the Ontario provincial Court of Justice or an Ontario Superior Court of Justice. This determination will be based on the offence committed. Some offences can only be tried by a superior court. These offences are usually tried before a judge and jury.

If you are charged with an indictable offence that is not within the exclusive jurisdiction of a superior court, the offence can be tried by either a provincial court or superior court. These offences fall into two categories.

1. No Election possible: for less serious indictable offences listed in s. 553 of the Criminal Code, you will not have a choice and your matter will be heard in a provincial court.

2. Election possible: for all other indictable offences, the accused may choose the form of trial. The accused can elect between a trial by judge alone in a provincial court or a trial by judge and jury in a superior court.

Offences and Rights of Appeal

A person convicted of an offence can appeal to the following:

1. Conviction

2. Sentence

3. The Finding of not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder

4. Finding that the accused was not fit to stand trial

5. Finding that the accused is a dangerous or long-term offender

The type of offence, summary or indictable, will limit an accused’s persons route of appeal and whether they can appeal “as of right”. “As of right” essentially means automatically, without being prevented from going forward with an appeal.

If you have committed an offence, whether indictable or summary, it is important to seek legal advice and representation. Our experienced Criminal Lawyers can discuss your matter in more detail, represent you, and help you prepare for any judicial proceedings to come.

This article only provides general information. For more information please contact our office to book a free initial consultation. You can reach our office at 905-366-0202 or contact us through our website here

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