Criminal offences

The main categories of criminal offences in Canada are summary conviction offences and indictable offences. Summary offences are less serious than indictable offences.

A judge hears summary conviction cases in provincial court. A person charged with a summary conviction offence is usually not arrested, unless the accused is found committing the offence. They are often given a notice to appear in court at a certain date and time.

A person charged with a summary conviction offence does not have to appear in court. A lawyer or an agent may appear in court on that person's behalf, unless the judge asks the person charged to appear.

An indictable offence is more serious. There are different procedures for indictable offences. The procedure that applies depends on how serious the offence is and choices made by the prosecutor and the accused person. A person charged with an indictable offence will be arrested where the police have reasonable grounds to believe that the person has committed an indictable offence or is about to commit an indictable offence. A person charged with an indictable offence must show up in court. He or she may represent him or herself or be represented by a lawyer.

You may also hear about a hybrid offence. A hybrid offence is an offence where the prosecutor can choose, based on factors such as the seriousness of the accused's actions and the harm caused, to proceed with the offence as either a summary conviction offence or as an indictable offence.