Being charged and going to court runs the spectrum of anxiety. At its least worrying, you may simply be charged with something like a traffic offence, and you may show up at court to contest it if you feel the officer was in error. On the most extreme end, however, your life and future may be on the line as you go to court to face criminal charges, complete with fines, probation, house arrest and a possible jail sentence.
Being charged with a violation of the law and going to court to face those consequences has a lot of different aspects. Even within the realm of criminal law, not every case is tried the same way. In Canada, for example, we have two different types of offences, summary and indictable. We’re going to look at the first of them, summary offences and their convictions.
Misdemeanors & Felonies
A summary offence conviction is the Canadian equivalent of a misdemeanor. This means that the violation is not considered serious, and brings with it a lighter sense of resolution and expectation. On the other hand, an indictable offence is like a felony, and the court considers this a “full crime” that it will resolve in court as such with a much harsher punishment.
People facing summary convictions have a very different experience from people facing indictable convictions. And the consequences are very far-ranging.
No Jury Required
Summary offences are treated far less intensely, and one of the things that may happen with a summary offence is that it will be felt that no jury is needed. So rather than a prolonged court session where a jury must be presented with evidence, then weigh that evidence and reach a verdict, in a summary conviction case, the judge may make the final decision.
Summary convictions also have a statute of limitations. In most summary conviction situations, charges must be laid within six months of the violation occurring. After that, if no charges are laid, the “crime” is essentially ignored. If a case does go to court, it always goes to provincial court and stays there. In fact, someone charged with a summary offence may not even have to go to court. A lawyer or other agent can act on that person’s behalf, and the consequences are far less severe. There may still be a jail sentence involved, but it’s a maximum of six months, while any fines applied are usually no more than $2000. However, a successful conviction on a summary offence is still considered a criminal conviction, even if it was for impaired driving or DUI, or theft under $5000, and it can still have an impact on your life. That conviction will show up on a background check forever and can affect your professional and travel opportunities.
It’s Not The End
It’s important to remember that even with a criminal record, there’s hope. A record suspension or pardon can eventually wipe clear that information from a background check, but it’s a lengthy, complex process. We have years of experience in helping people to clear their records and regain all the opportunities that come with it. If this is something you’d like help with, reach out to Pardons Canada. We know exactly what to do to ensure that your record suspension application has the best possible chance for success in the shortest possible time.