Categories of Criminal Offences

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Crime exists in different forms and shapes, and every places has its own reasons to segregate them into different categories. If you talk about different types of criminal offences in Canada, there are 3 basic categories, such as Summary Offences,Indictable Offences, and Hybrid Offences.

These types of offences have been outlined in the Criminal Code of Canada. While you can always learn about them in detail by consulting Toronto criminal defense lawyer, this post shares basic information on each of them. If you have been charged with a criminal offence, contact Hershberg Criminal Lawyer for legal adviceas well as professional assistance in the court.

  1. Summary Offences

You can find out the list of summary conviction offences in section 553 of the Criminal Code of Canada. The list mostly consists of minor charges and penalties as compared to other relatively severe crimes. Examples include theft (under $5,000) and mischief charges.

Purely summary conviction offences are processed and heard only in Provincial Court. This means that an accused doesn’t have the option for a jury or a preliminary inquiry.

  1. Indictable Offences

Contrary to summary offences, indictable offences are the most serious criminal offences. You can go through section 469 of the Criminal Code of Canada and learn about these offences in detail. Examples of indictable offences include murder and treason.

Purely indictable offences are processed and heard only in Supreme Court. The default trial mode is judge and jury; however, if the accused and prosecutor consent, the trial may be heard by judge alone.

What’s the Difference between the two?

The two categories of offences differ on the basis of court process as well as the maximum punishment.

In British Columbia, criminal cases are processed and heard provincial courts and supreme courts. All trials in Provincial Court are heard by judge alone, whereas trials in Supreme Court may be heard by a judge alone or judge and jury.

  1. Hybrid Offences

The offences that are not listed in either section 553 or 469 of the Criminal Code, but they fall in the category of offences, are hybrid offences. In fact, majority of the criminal offences fall in this particular category.

What hybrid offence means is the prosecutor can choose whether to classify an offence as summary conviction or indictable. How a charge is classified determines how a charge is processed through the criminal court system.

  • If a charge is a hybrid offence, and the prosecutor classifies it as indictable, then the accused can choose whether to have the case processed and heard in Provincial Court or Supreme Court.
  • If the prosecutor chooses to classify and proceed by indictment (i.e. indictable offence), then the accused chooses whether to have the case heard in Provincial Court or in Supreme Court by judge alone or judge and jury.

When the criminal lawyer Toronto has the option to choose (i.e. hybrid offence), the summary conviction maximum punishments are often less severe than indictable classification.

For example, an impaired driving charge (aka operating while impaired) is a hybrid offence where the prosecutor can choose to proceed summarily or by indictment. As an indictable offence, the maximum punishment is 5 years in jail; as a summary conviction offence, the maximum punishment is 18 months.