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What’s The Difference Between Summary Conviction And Indictable Offence

In Canada, offences are categorized by the Criminal Code of Canada as summary offences (or summary conviction) and indictable offences. You may have heard of both of these terms, but may not fully understand what they mean for you if you are charged with either offence. You should understand as much as you can about the process you may have to go through if charged with summary conviction or indictable offence.

Broadly speaking, the main differences between these two types of offences are the seriousness of the offence, the judicial procedure, and the severity of the punishments and penalties. If charged with either type of offence, you should know what to expect and be prepared.

What is a Summary Conviction in Canada?

A summary conviction in Canada is one that is less serious in nature than an indictable offence. It is also referred to as a summary conviction offence. These offenses are ones that are specifically designated to be dealt with summarily by the statute of Canada. This means you do not have the right to a trial by jury and are tried by provincial court judges.

You are not usually arrested for summary offences, unless you are caught committing the crime. In addition, you cannot be fingerprinted for a summary conviction offence. You are, however, given a notice for a date and time to appear in court, and can have someone attend on your behalf. You must be charged with the offence within six months of when the offence took place or the trial cannot take place.

A list of summary offences include:

Summary offences

Maximum penalties for these types of offenses are usually light in comparison to an indictable offence. If there is no specified penalty, the Criminal Code of Canada states that summary conviction offences penalties come with a maximum fine of up to $5,000 or six months’ jail time or both.

While summary conviction is not as serious as indictable one, a summary prosecution can still result in a criminal record, which is still considered very serious. Accused suspects who are convicted under summary convictions are eligible for an automatic pardon (record suspension) after 3 years. However, this is provided that the accused is not convicted of any other offences during that period.

What is an Indictable Offence in Canada?

Indictable offences are the most serious offences under the criminal code in Canada. If you are charged with an indictable offence and plead not guilty, you have the right to a trial by a superior court judge either with or without a jury. If the trial is with a jury, you have the choice to have a trial with or without a preliminary hearing.

Unlike a summary offence, there is no time limit or time frame on when you can be charged for an indictable offence. You can be arrested, charged and tried years after the crime was committed. Because of this, investigating and putting a case together for an indictable offence is both timely and costly.

The punishments for indictable offences in Canada are more harsh than summary conviction punishments. Penalties for indictable offences like the ones listed below are serious and can include sentences that range from 2 years to life in prison.

Minimum Punishment: Life Imprisonment
Maximum Punishment: Prison for life
Maximum Punishment: 14 years in prison
Maximum Punishment: 10 years in prison
Maximum Punishment: 7 years in prison
Maximum Punishment: 5 years in prison
Maximum Punishment: 2 years in prison

When accused with an indictable offence, like the ones listed above, if there is enough evidence for a case, the Crown counsel may charge you. If charged with an indictable crime, court proceedings will begin and you will begin to make pre-trial court appearances, going through an arraignment in the process.

By pleading “not guilty,” you will then have a choice to have a trial with a Supreme Court judge alone or a Supreme Court judge with a jury. The trial will then proceed during which you may be found guilty or not.

What is a Conviction on Indictment?

A conviction on indictment refers to when you are found guilty after being formally charged and tried for an indictable crime. When convicted, the judge can use statute laws as well as other cases as reference to determine an appropriate sentence for your crime. A sentence can include fines, jail time, community supervision and spending time in custody.

Is DUI a summary conviction in Canada?

Officially, DUIs in Canada are considered to be hybrid offences. This means that it can be prosecuted as either a summary conviction or indictable offence. Yet most Canadian DUI offences are treated and prosecuted as a summary conviction. However, if the DUI is considered serious, for instance, if your impaired driving causes bodily harm or even death, it can be prosecuted as an indictable offence.

For a first time offence, if convicted, you can expect a minimum $1,000 fine. For a second time offence within a ten year period, you can get a minimum of 30 days in prison. Afterwards, each subsequent conviction results in 120 days in jail.


To successfully defend yourself against any charges or allegations, whether summary conviction or indictable offence, it is important to consult a criminal lawyer immediately.