Types of Offences
Crown counsel decides what offences you will be charged with. This section includes information about the types of offences you could be charged with and possible penalties if you are found guilty.
The type of offence you are charged with will determine the type of court process that will apply to your case. It will also determine any maximum or minimum punishments you might receive if you are convicted.
There are three different kinds of offences.
Summary offences – These are less serious offences. The maximum penalty for a summary offence is usually a $5,000 fine and/or six months in jail. Some summary offences have higher maximum sentences. They include breaches of a probation order.
Indictable offences – These are more serious offences and include theft over $5,000, break and enter, aggravated sexual assault and murder. Maximum penalties for indictable offences vary and include life in prison. Some indictable offences have minimum penalties.
Hybrid offences - These are offences that can be dealt with as either summary or indictable. Crown counsel makes the decision about how the offence will be handled.
A summary conviction offence is the least serious kind of criminal offence under Canada's Criminal Code. It is also known as a "petty crime", for example, disturbing the peace.
Here is some information that you should know if you charged with committing a summary offence.
- These offences usually carry a maximum punishment of six months in jail or a $5,000 fine.
- Alternative measures can be considered for less serious summary offences.
- Trials are held before a judge in the Provincial Court.
- Police cannot take your fingerprints.
- As an adult, you may apply to receive a record suspension three years after you complete your sentence.
Indictable offences are the most serious offences under the Criminal Code and they come with more serious punishments. Examples of this type of offence are theft over $5,000, assault or murder.
Here is some information you should know if you are charged with an indictable offence.
- Depending on the offence, you could receive a penalty as high as life in a correctional centre.
- For most indictable offences, you will have a choice (called election) to have a trial with a Provincial Court judge, a B.C. Supreme Court judge alone or B.C. Supreme Court judge with a jury.
- Some trials are held only in specific courts. For instance, trials for some indictable offences are always held in Provincial Court. For these offences, you do not have a choice. For other indictable offences, such as first-degree murder, you must have a trial with a B.C. Supreme Court judge and jury.
With a hybrid offence, Crown counsel must choose whether to treat the matter as a summary offence or an indictable offence. This is called the Crown election. How the Crown decides or elects to treat the offence generally depends on how serious the offence is.
Here is some information you should know if you are charged with a hybrid offence.
- If Crown counsel chooses (elects) the summary process, then the trial will be in Provincial Court.
- If Crown counsel chooses (elects) the indictable process, in most cases you will have a choice whether to proceed in Provincial Court or B.C. Supreme Court.
- The Crown election will also determine the maximum penalty for the offence.
Some types of hybrid offences (called absolute jurisdiction offences) will always proceed in Provincial Court, whether the Crown chooses to treat the offence as summary or indictable. An example is theft under $5,000.
See the Criminal Code of Canada for more information about summary, indictable and hybrid offences.