Summary conviction offence

Filed Under: Criminal Law

The least serious offences in the Criminal Code. They are generally subject to a maximum penalty of six months and/or a fine of not more than $5,000 but can be subject to a higher maximum period of imprisonment such as eighteen months.

A generally less serious category of offences that carry less severe penalties (by default, a maximum of two years less a day imprisonment) and that cannot be prosecuted more than twelve months after the date of the offence. Summary conviction offences are tried on an information and the trial necessarily takes place in front of a provincial court judge.

A less serious offence, usually carrying a penalty of no more than six months’ imprisonment, or a maximum fine of $5000, or both. Some legislation sets out other penalties. See also indictable offence.

The category of criminal offences that are subject to less formal and complex procedures. Summary conviction offences are tried by justices or provincial court judges. They are usually less serious crimes than indictable offences and carry lower penalties.

One of three categories of offences under the Criminal Code, the other two being indictable and hybrid. A relatively small number of the least serious offences are summary offences; adults charged with these offences must be tried by a summary process without a jury. Indictable offences are the more serious offences, including robbery and homicide, for which adults may face longer sentences and generally have the right to a preliminary inquiry and a jury trial. Many offences, such as sexual assault and theft, are hybrid, with the Crown having an “election” (or choice) to proceed summarily or by indictment. For adults, if the Crown elects to proceed summarily, the maximum penalty is less, but the accused loses the opportunity to have a preliminary inquiry and jury trial. By virtue of section 142 of the YCJA, proceedings against young persons in youth justice court generally have a summary process (no jury or preliminary inquiry), although the offences retain their character as summary, hybrid, or indictable for such purposes as arrest. At the time of arrest, a hybrid offence, even for a young person, is regarded as indictable (Interpretation Act, s. 34(1)(a)). The Crown will often elect in youth justice court to treat a hybrid offence as indictable, for such purposes as having a longer records retention period, as well as the longer maximum sentence (generally six months is the maximum sentence for summary offences or hybrid offences treated as summary, whereas for hybrid offences treated as indictable under the YCJA the maximum is two or three years in custody).

The group of offences in the Criminal Code that are considered to be the least serious crimes (i.e., causing a public disturbance, communicating for the purposes of prostitution, etc.). These might be compared to misdemeanor offences in the United States.

Scroll to Top