What makes the criminal justice system complex is its shared jurisdiction between federal, provincial, territorial, and municipal agencies. Criminal law falls under public law. It is not principally focused on the harm or wrong done to an individual. A criminal offence is mainly a wrong against society, and it is the Crown rather than the harmed individual that enforces and prosecutes the wrongdoer.
Criminal Code offences fall into three categories: summary, indictable and hybrid.
1. Straight summary conviction offences
Summary conviction offences attract the lowest penalties and are often unaccompanied by specific penalty provisions. Therefore, reference must be made to s. 787(1) of the Code, which sets out the general penalty provisions for summary conviction offences.
2. Straight indictable offences
Offences that can only be prosecuted by way of an indictment are the most serious offences, where severe penalties are imposed upon conviction, such as life imprisonment. A specific penalty provision always accompanies the sections creating indictable offences.
3. Hybrid offences
The majority of offences in the Code are “Crown-elect” offences, or hybrid offences. In hybrid offences the Crown can choose whether to proceed summarily or by indictment. All hybrid offences are accompanied by a specific penalty provision that sets out the maximum penalty available should the Crown proceed by way of indictment. If the Code does not set out a specific penalty for a hybrid offence and the Crown elects to proceed summarily, then s. 787(1), the general penalty section for summary offences applies.
Note: Until the Crown makes its election as to proceeding by way of summary conviction or by indictment, the offence is deemed to be indictable for the purposes of any interim procedures.
Our criminal defence lawyer is experienced as a former police officer and has been involved in some of the most challenging and unprecedented criminal cases. We pride ourselves on achieving the best possible result at the earliest stage of the proceedings. We emphasize the accused’s right to liberty and ensure the accused is entitled to a full answer and defence. Clients should contact us as soon as they believe their rights have been infringed.
Some common criminal law areas the firm can help you with include