Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Summary Conviction Offence Definition:

In Canada, a less serious offence than indictable offences and for which both the procedure and punishment tends to be less onerous.

Related Terms: Indictable Offence, Misdemeanor, Petty Offense

Canada, contrary to the United States, did not retain the common distinction between misdemeanours and felonies and, instead, crimes in Canada are classified as either indictable offences or offences punishable on summary conviction, aka summary conviction offences.

There are also hybrid offences, which allow the prosecutor to opt between proceedings by way of summary conviction or by indictment.

All summary conviction offences must be tried in what the Canadian Criminal Code, at §785, defines as  summary conviction court, usually a lower-level court such as a provincial court, as opposed to a higher court, such as a Supreme or Court of Queen's bench court.

Justice Salhany writes:

"A summary conviction court is generally composed of a provincial court judge or justice of the peace sitting alone ...."

Further, the procedure is streamlined when compared to the procedure for indictable offences, and is codified in Part XXVII (Roman numerals in original; Part 27) of the Criminal Code entitled Summary Convictions (§785 to §840).

Further, 800(2) of the Canadian Criminal Code:

"A defendant may appear personally or by counsel or agent, but the summary conviction court may require the defendant to appear personally...."

This is a considerable difference with offences charged by way of indictment, in which event the accused must appear personally.

In regards to sentence, offences punishable by summary conviction do not exceed six months imprisonment or a $2,000 fine, or both.


  • Criminal Code, R.S.C. 1985, Chapter C-46.
  • Salhany, R. E., Canadian Criminal Procedure (Toronto: Canada Law Book, 2008).

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