Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Indictable Offence Definition:

An offence which the government can opt to cause trial by a more formal process than by summary process.

Related Terms: Indictment, Summary Conviction Offence, Felony

In Hastings, Justice Tucker wrote of indictable offence as follows:

"... whether the offence was indictable, and it is said that this means capable of being dealt with on indictment ... notwithstanding that the prosecution in fact subsequently elected to deal with it, as they are entitled to do, as a summary offence."

An offence which, in Canada, is more serious than those which can proceed by summary conviction.

In many regards, this is the Canadian equivalent to the USA felony.

Murder and treason are examples of crimes committed in Canada which would be indictable offences.

These crimes are usually tried by federally-appointed judges and carry heavy sentences.

§471 of the Canadian Criminal Code:

"Except where otherwise expressly provided by law, every accused who is charged with an indictable offence shall be tried by a court composed of a judge and jury."

When indicted, the accused also loses the convenience of appearing by counsel or agent as he or she is entitled when the charges are by way of summary conviction. When indicted, the accused must appear personally in court.

Many offences are hybrid offences which means that the prosecutor may proceed by way of indictment or summary conviction process.


  • Criminal Code, R.S.C. 1985, Chapter C-46.
  • Hastings & Folkestone Glassworks Limited v Kalson [1949] 1 KB 214
  • R v Guildhall Justices [1976] 1 All ER 767
  • Salhany, R. E., Canadian Criminal Procedure (Toronto: Canada Law Book, 2008).

Categories & Topics:

Always looking up definitions? Save time with our search provider (modern browsers only)

If you find an error or omission in Duhaime's Law Dictionary, or if you have suggestion for a legal term, we'd love to hear from you!