Many individuals who are accused of crime or law violations get sentenced without knowledge of the terms of conviction and the severity of the offence they have been charged with, as deemed by the Canadian Criminal Code. There are three categories of criminal offences in the Canadian Criminal Code:
- Summary Offence
- Indictment Offence
- Hybrid Offence
These offences are differentiated according to the severity of the crimes committed and the methods and procedures used to prosecute the accused.
Summary Offences are the least serious of all criminal offences. Most Summary Offences result in light sentences or penalties but may be punishable by up to a $5000 fine or as much as 6 months of incarceration. In some more serious cases, such as “assault with a firearm (weapon),” one can receive up to 18 months in jail.
Some examples of typical Summary Offences include:
- Contacting a prostitute with the intention of gaining a sexual service
- Noise Disturbance
- Possession of small amounts of illegal drugs
One very important characteristic of Summary Offences is that the prosecuted cannot be finger printed, unless they are convicted of two crimes at once, with one being an Indictment Offence. Also, the advantage to this conviction in comparison to that of the Indictment, is that the prosecuted is not required to face a jury for trial for the case to be attended to. If the Offence classification cannot be determined then it must be sent to the Crown, who will then be responsible for making the decision.
An Indictment Offence is a more serious offence which generally takes longer to be processed through the courts in comparison to a Summary Offence. Indictable Offences generally lead to heavier or greater penalties, including up to life imprisonment. Only in some cases, such as fraud and theft under $5000, is the offender eligible for a trial by a jury.
Some typical examples of Indictment Offences are:
When one is charged with an Indictment Offence a finger print of the prosecuted must be taken. Unlike Summary Offences, As long as the police have the required information, Indictment Offences have no limited period for the offender to be charged, tried and convicted.
Sometimes it is difficult or complicated to determine the difference between Summary and Indictment Offences for example, “Break and enter with intent (dwelling)” indeed is an Indictment Offence, but without “dwelling”, it is classified as a Summary Offence. For this very reason, there are many occurrences of offences being considered as a Hybrid Offence.
Hybrid Offence is the term given to the two situations previously stated in the Summary and Indictment Offence, where the Crown (Government lawyer) is given the responsibility to elect the mode of prosecution.
The Indictment or Summary Offence can be deemed a Hybrid Offence if the prosecutor is unable to establish a decision as to whether the Offence is that of an Indictment Offence or a Summary Offence.
It is important to note that a Hybrid Offence can be considered an Indictable Offence until the Crown decides the verdict. Whether or not the final decision by the Crown is a Summary Offence, the prosecuted might be required to have their finger prints taken.
If you have been accused of a crime, it is important to be aware of the class of crime you are being charged with and how you can expect your case to be prosecuted. At The Law Firm of Ted Yoannou, we understand the best methods of defending all types of crimes and we can explain exactly how your case will be processed and how we will vigorously defend your innocence or recommend an appropriate plea.