Indictment vs. Summary Offence

What is an Indictable Offence?

Indictment means the Crown Attorney will be able to ask the Court to impose a sentence of more than six months. When the Crown proceeds by Indictment, the accused has the options of having a trial:

  1. In the Ontario Court of Justice without a preliminary hearing;
  2. In the Superior Court of Justice with a jury after having had a preliminary hearing;
  3. In the Superior Court of Justice with a Judge alone after having had a preliminary hearing.

A preliminary hearing is a trial in the Ontario Court of Justice with the sole purpose of determining whether the Crown has presented evidence that meets the test of “any evidence to which a jury properly instructed could make a finding of guilt.”  This is a very low threshold, and doesn’t determine guilt but can end the prosecution of the matter.

If the court feels that “test” has been met, the accused is sent onto trial in the Superior Court of Justice.

If the court feels that the “test” has not been met, the accused is immediately discharged from the charges.

What is a Summary Offence?

Unlike an Indictable Offence, the only option for trial is the Ontario Court of Justice.  If convicted of a Summary Offence, you can face up to a maximum of 6-months in jail.  While some offences are strictly Summary Offences, most are considered hybrid offences, which means the Crown Attorney gets to decide if the matter will proceed Summarily or Indictable.

What to do if charged with an offence?

You have a right to remain silent – do so!  This right is there to protect you.  The police do not have to stop questioning you, but you do not have to answer.  You also have the right to speak to a lawyer upon detention or arrest – do so!  Again, this right is there to protect you.

Criminal Defence Lawyers

I am here to help you through the process of being charged.  My job is to make the process easier for you - to review your case in relation to the charge(s) you are facing - address the court when, and as necessary – deal with the Crown Attorney for your matter – and give you the best defence at trial, or plea resolution possible.  Make sure you have a lawyer that understands the law and is prepared to act for you.

You may qualify for Legal Aid:  See Legal Aid Ontario Information.

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If you or someone you care about is looking for a criminal lawyer in Ontario, please contact us 24/7 for help:

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