What is the difference between a summary and indictable offence?

Every offence in the Criminal Code is classified as a summary, indictable, or hybrid offence. A hybrid offence is one where it is left up to the Crown’s discretion to decide if they would like to proceed summarily or by indictment on the charge. These terms are indicators of how “serious” the offence is. Summary offences are generally less serious offences while indictable offences are more serious. This classification impacts the severity of the penalties you could face. It also determines whether you have the right to a trial in the Ontario Court of Justice or the right to a preliminary hearing in the Ontario Court of Justice followed by a trial in the Superior Court of Justice. Those entitled to a trial in the Superior Court of Justice also have the right to elect to a trial by judge and jury or by judge alone.

The classification of the charge as summary or indictable is extremely important in cases where the accused has simultaneous immigration and citizenship concerns. If convicted, it can also impact the timing of your eligibility to apply for a pardon/record suspension.

Ron Ellis is a Criminal Defence Lawyer working in London, Ontario and practicing criminal defence law all over Southwestern Ontario, including Grand Bend, Sarnia, Woodstock and Kitchener. Ron Ellis Law would like to thank Kristen Thomas for her contributions to this blog.

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