Did you know that crimes in Canada are classified as either an indictable offence or offences punishable on summary conviction? Not many people do, and understanding the difference between the two may be necessary at some time in your life. So, here we provide an understanding as to what exactly a summary conviction offence is and how it is tried in court.
What is a summary conviction offence?
They are the most minor offences in the criminal code. It’s a criminal act that can be proceeded without the right to a jury trial and or indictment. They’re generally less serious than an indictable offence and in turn, have less serious penalties and fines. A couple examples of common summary conviction offences are harassing phone calls or trespassing at night.
Is an arrest made?
Not usually. Generally, a person charged with this type of offence isn’t arrested but instead given a notice to appear in court on a specific set date.
Who makes the choice between summary or indictable?
The Crown prosecutor has the choice as whether to try someone as a summary conviction office or an indictable offence.
Where is this type of offence tried?
All summary convictions are tried in what the Canadian Criminal Code, Section 785, defines as a summary conviction court. A judge will hear the summary conviction cases usually in a provincial court as opposed to the Court of Queens bench court or Superior Court.
Is there a specific time period in which the person is to be charged?
There is a statute put in place that prohibits someone from being convicted six months after the offence was committed. After this time, the person cannot be charged with the summary conviction offence, unless both the prosecutor and the defendant can agree otherwise.
What are the penalties?
Under the federal jurisdiction as outlined in the Criminal Code section 787, unless another punishment is provided the maximum penalty is a sentence of six months imprisonment, or a fine of $5000, or both.
Is there the potential to appeal?
Yes. They will go on to the highest trial court in the jurisdiction such as the Ontario Superior Court, then on to the Ontario Court of Appeal and finally the Supreme Court of Canada.
Can a person be eligible for a pardon?
A person may be eligible for pardon but only after three years and if no more offences have been committed during that time.
Understanding the classification of crimes, sentences and court structures can be challenging. Seeking the advice and wisdom of a paralegal is always the best approach to understanding the system and your rights.