How does the Canadian Criminal Justice System work?


What are Summary Convictions?

Summary Conviction offences are considered less serious than indictable offences because they are punishable by shorter prison sentences and smaller fines.  They can usually be dealt with in a quick and “summary” way.  You cannot be fingerprinted for a Summary Conviction offence.  If you are accused of a Summary Conviction offence, there is no right to a jury trial.

Your trial will be decided by a Judge only in Ontario Court of Justice – Provincial Division.

Within the Summary Conviction category, there are two sub-categories: Summary Conviction offences and Super-Summary Conviction offences.

  • Summary Conviction offences are punishable by a maximum fine of $5,000 or six months in jail or both.
  • Super-Summary Conviction offences are punishable by a maximum of 18 months in jail.

The more typical Summary or Super-Summary Conviction offences are:

  • Causing a Disturbance
  • Indecent Act
  • Theft Under $5,000 (a.k.a. Shoplifting)



What are Indictable Offences?

Indictable offences are the more serious crimes and all crimes involving violence with a weapon or injury.  They also involve more complex court proceedings.  In addition, the punishments for an Indictable offences are more serious and vary depending on the offence.  Many of these offences even carry a mandatory minimum sentence.

If you are charged with an Indictable offence, you may be entitled to have a Preliminary Inquiry in the Ontario Court of Justice, where the Crown Prosecutor must prove that there is probable cause to believe that a crime was committed and that the accused person before the Court is the one who committed that crime.

If the case is committed to trial, then the case proceeds to the Superior Court of Justice for the trial.  Unlike summary conviction offences, you are entitled to a jury trial in the Superior Court of Justice.

The more typical Indictable offences are:



What are Hybrid Offences?

Hybrid offences are where the Crown Prosecutor has the discretion to choose either to charge the accused with a summary conviction or an indictable offence.  Depending on which category the Crown chooses, the accused may or may not be entitled to a Preliminary Inquiry and may or may not be entitled to a jury trial.

Likewise, the maximum possible penalty depends upon which category the Crown chooses.

The more typical hybrid offences are: