Understanding the Classifications of Criminal Charges in BC

April 29th, 2024
Understanding the Classifications of Criminal Charges in BC

Criminal offences in British Columbia are divided into three categories: Summary offences, Indictable offences, and Hybrid offences. These same categories also apply elsewhere in Canada in the other provinces and territories because the classification system is federal and relies on the federal Criminal Code.

In today’s blog article, we are going to explain the differences between these offences and what they mean.

Summary Offence:

Everything is relative, so summary offences are relatively less serious, in general. Some of these crimes might be loosely referred to as petty crime. Often these offences have a maximum penalty of a short stay in prison for roughly six months or a $5,000 fine. Sometimes alternative penalties can be negotiated such as reparation for your crime, an apology, and/or community service. These lesser alternative penalties, however, depend on a number of factors such as the age of the defendant, previous crimes, and genuine remorse.

Indictable Offence:

Indictable offences are more serious crimes, such as sexual assault or attempted murder. Penalties will also be harsher than the ones listed above. Prison sentences will be longer, and some of these offences will have a prescribed minimum penalty. Maximum penalties can include life in prison.

Regarding indictable offences, most of the time the accused will have a choice of whether to have a trial with a Provincial Court judge or a BC Supreme Court judge, with or without a jury. That said, certain types of indictable offences always wind up in Provincial Court and the accused does not have a choice of venues. And certain other offences will always be tried in front of a BC Supreme Court judge with a jury.

Hybrid Offences

Hybrid offences are offences for which the Crown has the option to choose whether the offence will be treated as a summary offence or an indictable offense. This decision is typically based on how serious the offence is.

In addition to classifying offences as summary, indictable or hybrid, another way to classify offences is by whether the offence is a crime against another person (like assault) or a crime against property (like damaging property) or other.

Examples of other types of crime include gambling or drug offences. 

If you have committed a crime or been charged with a crime, please contact Gagan Nahal for a free consultation in Vancouver at (604) 527-4769 as soon as possible. Mr. Nahal’s law practice focuses on criminal defence law, and he has extensive experience in this area of the law. 

Gagan Nahal is a criminal defence lawyer based in Surrey, British Columbia, although he has represented clients across Canada. He works vigorously and tirelessly defending his clients. 

If you have any questions about this article or you would like to talk to Mr. Nahal, please call him directly at (604) 527-4769.