summary conviction offence
Definition of summary conviction offence
In Canada summary offences are referred to as summary conviction offences. As in other jurisdictions summary conviction offences are considered less serious than indictable offences because they are punishable by shorter prison sentences and smaller fines. These offences appear both in the federal laws of Canada and in the legislation of Canada's provinces and territories. For summary conviction offences that fall under the jurisdiction of the federal government (which includes all criminal law), section 787 of the Criminal Code of Canada specifies that, unless another punishment is provided for by law, the maximum penalty for a summary conviction offence is a sentence of 6 months of imprisonment, a fine of $2,000 or both.
As a matter of practical effect, some common differences between summary conviction and indictable offences are provided below.
Summary conviction offences
- Accused must be charged with a summary conviction within 6 months after the act happened. Note that the statute of limitations does not apply to the Criminal Code. Limitation periods are set out in the Criminal Code directly.
- The police can arrest under summary conviction without an arrest warrant notwithstanding s. 495(2)(c) of the Criminal Code.
- Accused does not have to submit fingerprints when charged under Summary Conviction.
- Appeals of summary conviction offences go first to the highest trial court within the jurisdiction (e.g. provincial superior court in Alberta is the Court of Queen's Bench).
- After Provincial Superior Court a further appeal would go to the Provincial Court of Appeal (e.g. the Court of Appeal of Alberta), and then finally to the Supreme Court of Canada, but as a practical matter very few summary convictions are ever heard by the Supreme Court of Canada.
- Accused convicted under summary conviction are eligible for an automatic pardon after 5 years provided the accused is not convicted of any further offences during that period.
- Almost always heard first in a provincial court (although some exceptions apply, such as a summary conviction offence included for trial with an indictable offence).
- There is no time limit to when charges can be laid, e.g. an accused can be charged 20 years after an act has occurred. The exception to this point is treason, which has a 3-year limitation period.
- Police do require a warrant to arrest under an indictable offence.
- Accused has to submit fingerprints when required to appear to answer to an indictable offence.
- Appeals always go to the Provincial Court of Appeal first, and then on to the Supreme Court of Canada.
- Accused convicted under an indictable offence can apply for pardon after 5 years.
- Wiktionary. Published under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.
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