Court Procedures for Criminal Cases

If you or someone you know thinks they have committed a crime, this information will help to understand exactly how crimes are classified and handled by the courts. The primary criminal offences in Canada are set into three categories: (1) summary conviction offences, (2) indictable offences, and (3) hybrid offences. 

Summary Conviction Offences

A summary conviction offence is also referred to as petty crime and is considered to be the least serious criminal offence under Canada’s Criminal Code. 

If you have been charged with a summary offence, you can expect:

  • The maximum punishment of six months in jail or a $5,000 fine.
  • Trials are held before a judge in the Provincial Court.
  • Police cannot take your fingerprints.
  • Alternative Measures Programs are often used for less serious summary offences, such as community service and compensation rather than jail or a fine.
  • After your sentence is completed, you may apply for a record suspension that will allow your criminal record to be pardoned, however, it is up to the Parole Board of Canada.

A person charged with a summary conviction offence is generally not arrested unless caught at the time the offence is happening. They are given notice to appear in court and may opt to send an attorney to attend on their behalf.  The proceedings take place in provincial court with a judge alone (no jury). The types of crimes that are considered summary conviction offences include: 

  • Theft of property worth less than $5,000 
  • Possession of the stolen property
  • Fraud, credit card offences, forgery
  • Mischief causing damage to property
  • Possess cocaine, other drugs
  • Impaired driving, driving over .08
  • Hit & run, dangerous vehicle operation, etc.
  • Betting/gaming in house
  • Bookmaking, unauthorized lottery, etc.
  • Indecent/harassing telephone calls
  • Cause disturbance
  • Vagrancy, public nuisance, trespass at night
  • Communicate for the purposes of prostitution
  • Bawdy house: owner, inmate, found in
  • Other morals (public nudity etc.)

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Indictable Offences

Indictable offences are much more serious under the Criminal Code and the punishments are commensurate. If you are charged with an indictable offence, you can expect:

  • A penalty as high as life in a correctional centre.
  • Choice of a trial with a Provincial Court judge, a B.C. Supreme Court judge alone, or a B.C. Supreme Court judge with a jury.
  • For some offences, you do not get a choice. For example, in the event of first-degree murder, you must go to trial with a B.C. Supreme Court judge and jury.

The list of indictable offences includes, but not limited to the following:

  • 1st and 2nd-degree murder
  • Manslaughter
  • Infanticide
  • Motor vehicle offences causing death
  • Conspiracy to murder, negligence causing death
  • Sexual assault levels 2 & 3
  • Assault levels 2 & 3 
  • Robbery
  • Sex offences against children
  • Kidnapping, abduction, hostage-taking
  • Extortion
  • Breaking and entering
  • Arson
  • Counterfeiting
  • Explosives offences
  • Prohibited & Restricted weapon

Hybrid Offence

The Crown Counsel determines whether the crime will be treated as a summary offence or an indictable offence. If you are charged with a hybrid offence, here is what you can expect:

  1. If the Crown Counsel elects the summary process, the trial will be held in Provincial Court.
  2. If the Crown Counsel determines the crime is an indictable offence, you may have a choice of Provincial Court or B.C. Supreme Court.
  3. The Crown Counsel will predetermine the maximum penalty for the offence.

How Criminal Offences are Processed Through the Courts

As mentioned above, summary offences do not go through this process, unless it is a hybrid case that is determined to be an indictable offence. Those who are charged with an indictable offence will likely go through this process unless a plea bargain is arranged at any step. Note: Each province and territory has its own courts, however, the Supreme Court of Canada rules over the entire system.

Sicotte & Sandhu Criminal Attorneys – On Your Side

If you are facing criminal charges and do not know where to turn, we can help. Our experienced criminal defence attorneys understand the specific legalities that are involved in winning each case. We recommend an initial consultation, which is offered as a complimentary service. 

We have offices in Surrey and Vancouver, BC, for your convenience. Contact us 

immediately for an initial consultation at 604-585-8898.