Summary offences are criminal actions that can be sorted out within a short period. The accused or defendant wouldn’t have to remain in jail awaiting an indictment or jury trial. Most indictment charges get dragged for so long in court for months leaving the accused helpless.
When charged with a summary offence, the accused does not have the right to go to trial. Common examples of such offences are domestic assault, theft under $5000, and mischief.
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All cases categorized as summary offences are known as Summary Conviction Offences under the Canadian Criminal Code. These offences generally attract fines and shorter prison sentences (when needed).
Summary conviction offences are taken less seriously than grievous charges punishable with years of prison time. When the accused is found guilty, the court immediately fines the individual or sentences them to minimum prison time.
This law is applicable across all provinces, territories, and the federal level at large in Canada. At the federal level, the accused can only be sentenced to a maximum penalty of 6 months of imprisonment except there’s an additional punishment. Charges under summary offences attract a maximum of $5,000 fine and/or prison time. Section 786 of the Canadian Criminal Code prevents the accused from paying more than $5000 or 6 months of prison time.
A crown prosecutor handles summary conviction cases. The prosecutor rules the case and decides how much fine the accused has to pay.
They also determine to what extent the accused has to pay for their crimes with prison time. Crown prosecutors may sometimes decide to treat summary offences more serious than normal. This happens when the accused has a criminal record.
They no longer get a slap on the wrist from the government for such an indictable offence.
The term “summary” in itself means a simpler and much quicker version of the normal procedure. Rather than go through the usual process of setting dates for jury trials and hearings, summary offences are treated with much quicker actions.
There’s no court and the accused is not arrested by law. One significant difference, however, is that the accused gets a notice to appear before the court for their sentencing.
The accused can only be charged with summary conviction offences once.
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