Criminal Law Guide

Criminal Law Guide


The criminal law of Canada is under the exclusive legislative jurisdiction of the Parliament of Canada. Most criminal laws have been codified in the Criminal Code, as well as the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, Youth Criminal Justice Act and several other statutes.

There are two basic types of offences. Minor offences are known as summary conviction offences (trespassing, causing disturbance at night etc.). They are defined as “summary” within the Act and, unless otherwise stated, are punishable by a fine of no more than $5,000 and/or 6 months in jail.

All non-summary offences are indictable (Serious Offences): the available penalties are greater for indictable offences than for summary offences. These indictable offences may be divided into three categories.

Indictable-only offences such as treason and murder. These can only be tried by the higher court of the province with a jury, unless both the accused person and the Attorney General consent to trial by a higher court judge alone. Other Offences of absolute jurisdiction include theft and fraud up to the value of $5,000 and certain nuisance offences. In theses scenarios the accused person does not have an election and must be tried by a judge of the provincial court without a jury. accused person can elect whether to be tried by a provincial court judge, a judge of the higher court of the province without a jury or a judge of the higher court with a jury.