In criminal law, there are 3 ways a charge can proceed, by summary conviction (also referred to as summarily), by indictment, or most commonly as a hybrid offence. A hybrid offence can proceed either summarily or by indictment, at the discretion of the prosecutor.
What is a summary conviction?
In simple terms, summary convictions are less serious charges. They are punishable by a maximum of a $5000 fine or less than 2 years imprisonment. Other sentencing options may be available also of a less serious nature. Summary conviction offences are tried in front of a judge only. If you are charged with a summary offence you will not be required to have your fingerprints taken. Another unique factor of a summary conviction offence is they are subject to a statute of limitations, a person cannot be charged with a summary conviction offence if more than 6 months have passed since the date of the alleged offence.
Indictable offences are the most serious charges you can face, and the penalties can range all the way up to life imprisonment. Since the peril of these types of offences can be much greater it is especially important and necessary to retain the counsel of a criminal lawyer to assist you. An indictable offence can be tried either by the judge only or by a trial in front of a judge and jury. There is no statute of limitations on this type of offence, a person can be charged months or even several years later.
What is a hybrid offence?
A hybrid offence is the most common type of criminal charge. In the case of a hybrid offence, it may be prosecuted summarily or by indictment. The prosecutor may choose to proceed by way of summary conviction for a less serious charge, or by indictment for more serious crimes, as the punishments available for an indictable offence are more severe. If more than 6 months have passed since the alleged offence the prosecutor may also choose to proceed by way of indictment.
Regardless of which type of criminal charge you may be facing, it is highly recommended that you speak to a qualified criminal lawyer to guide you through the process.