Summary offence

A summary offence is a crime in some common law jurisdictions that can be proceeded against summarily, without the right to a jury trial and/or indictment (required for an indictable offence).[1]


In Canada, summary offences are referred to as summary conviction offences.[2] As in other jurisdictions, summary conviction offences are considered less serious than indictable offences because they are punishable by shorter prison sentences and smaller fines. These offences appear both in the federal laws of Canada and in the legislation of Canada's provinces and territories. For summary conviction offences that fall under the jurisdiction of the federal government (which includes all criminal law), section 787 of the Criminal Code specifies that, unless another punishment is provided for by law, the maximum penalty for a summary conviction offence is a sentence of 6 months of imprisonment, a fine of $5,000 or both.

As a matter of practical effect, some common differences between summary conviction and indictable offences are provided below.

Summary conviction offences

  • Accused must be charged with a summary conviction within 6 months after the act happened. Limitation periods are set out in the Criminal Code.
  • The police can arrest under summary conviction without an arrest warrant if found committing a summary offence notwithstanding s. 495(2)(c) of the Criminal Code.[3]
  • If the police do not find committing a summary offence, an arrest warrant is required.
  • Accused does not have to submit fingerprints when charged under Summary Conviction.[4]
  • Appeals of summary conviction offences go first to the highest trial court within the jurisdiction (e.g., provincial superior court in Alberta is the Court of Queen’s Bench).
  • After Provincial Superior Court a further appeal would go to the Provincial Court of Appeal (e.g., the Court of Appeal of Alberta), and then finally to the Supreme Court of Canada, but as a practical matter very few summary convictions are ever heard by the Supreme Court of Canada.
  • Accused convicted under summary conviction are eligible for a pardon after 5 years provided the accused is not convicted of any further offences during that period.
  • Always tried in a provincial court (cannot be joined with an indictable offence in a superior court).[5]

Indictable offences

  • There is no time limit to when charges can be laid, such that an accused can be charged at any time after an act has occurred. The exception to this point is treason, which has a 3-year limitation period.
  • Police do not require a warrant to arrest under an indictable offence: see S.495(1)(a) Criminal Code[6]
  • Accused has to submit fingerprints when required to appear to answer to an indictable offence.[4]
  • Appeals always go to the Provincial Court of Appeal first, and then on to the Supreme Court of Canada.
  • Accused convicted under an indictable offence can apply for a pardon after 10 years.

Hong Kong

In Hong Kong, trials for summary offences are heard in one of the territory's Magistrates' Courts.

United Kingdom

In relation to England and Wales, the expression "summary trial" means a trial in the magistrates' court. In such proceedings there is no jury; the appointed judge, or a panel of three lay magistrates, decides the guilt or innocence of the accused. Each summary offence is specified by statute which describes the (usually minor) offence and the judge to hear it. A summary procedure can result in a summary conviction.[7] A "summary offence" is one which, if charged to an adult, can only be tried by summary procedure.[8] Similar procedures are also used in Scotland.

Certain offences that may be tried in a Crown Court (by jury) may be required to be tried summarily if the value involved is small; such offences are still considered either way offences, so are not thereby "summary offences" in the meaning of that term defined by statute. Contrariwise, certain summary offences may in certain circumstances be tried on indictment along with other offences that are themselves indictable; they do not thereby become "indictable offences" or "either way offences" but remain "summary offences", though tried by jury.[8]

Sir William Blackstone, in his Commentaries on the Laws of England (1765–1769), described summary offences thus:

By a summary proceeding I mean principally such as is directed by several acts of parliament (for the common law is a stranger to it, unless in the case of contempts) for the conviction of offenders, and the inflicting of certain penalties created by those acts of parliament. In these there is no intervention of a jury, but the party accused is acquitted or condemned by the suffrage of such person only, as the statute has appointed for his judge. An institution designed professedly for the greater ease of the subject, by doing him speedy justice, and by not harassing the freeholders with frequent and troublesome attendances to try every minute offence. But it has of late been so far extended, as, if a check be not timely given, to threaten the disuse of our admirable and truly English trial by jury, unless only in capital cases.

In the United Kingdom, trials for summary offences are heard in one of a number of types of lower court. For England and Wales this is the Magistrates' Court. In Scotland, it is the Sheriff Court or Justice of the peace court, depending on the offence (the latter being primarily for the most minor of offences). Northern Ireland has its own Magistrates' Court system.

United States

In the United States, "there are certain minor or petty offenses that may be proceeded against summarily, and without a jury".[9][10][1] These include criminal citations. Any crime punishable by more than six months of imprisonment must have some means for a jury trial.[11] Some states, such as California, provide that all common law crimes and misdemeanors require a jury trial.[12] Some states provide that in all offenses the defendant may demand a jury trial.

Contempt of court is considered a prerogative of the court, as "the requirement of a jury does not apply to 'contempts committed in disobedience of any lawful writ, process, order, rule, decree, or command entered in any suit or action brought or prosecuted in the name of, or on behalf of, the United States'".[13] There have been criticisms over the practice. In particular, Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black wrote in a 1964 dissent, "It is high time, in my judgment, to wipe out root and branch the judge-invented and judge-maintained notion that judges can try criminal contempt cases without a jury."[13]

See also


  1. ^ a b Alabama v. Shelton, 535 U.S. 654, 670 n.10 (2002) ("In Pennsylvania, for example, all defendants charged with misdemeanors enjoy a right to counsel regardless of the sentence imposed, only those charged with 'summary offenses' (violations not technically considered crimes and punishable by no more than 90 days' imprisonment, ... may receive a suspended sentence uncounseled. (Typical 'summary offenses' in Pennsylvania include the failure to return a library book within 30 days... and fishing on a Sunday ....") (citations omitted).
  2. ^ "Criminal Code". Government of Canada. Retrieved 20 June 2015.
  3. ^ "Captcha". Retrieved 19 March 2018.
  4. ^ a b "Captcha". Retrieved 19 March 2018.
  5. ^ R v Clunas, [1992] 1 SCR 595
  6. ^ "Captcha". Retrieved 19 March 2018.
  7. ^ "Summary offences and the Crown Court". CPS. Crown Prosecution Service. Retrieved 19 March 2018.
  8. ^ a b The Interpretation Act 1978, section 5 and Schedule 1 (in the heading "construction of certain expressions relating to offences"), as amended by section 170 of, and paragraph 59 of Schedule 15 to, the Criminal Justice Act 1988, and by section 154 of, and paragraph 169 of Schedule 7 to, the Magistrates' Courts Act 1980.
  9. ^ Callan v. Wilson, 127 U.S. 540 (1888)
  10. ^ Duncan v. Louisiana, 391 U.S. 145 (1968)
  11. ^ Lewis v. United States, 518 U.S. 322 (1996); see also 18 U.S.C. § 19 (titled "Petty offense defined")
  12. ^ Ex parte Wong You Ting, 106 Cal. 296 (1895); Taylor v. Reynolds, 92 Cal. 573
  13. ^ a b United States v. Barnett, 376 U.S. 681 (1964)
Adele Farina

Adele Farina (born 31 March 1964) is an Australian politician. She has been a Labor Party member of the Western Australian Legislative Council since 2001, representing South West Region. She served as parliamentary secretary to three different state ministers, the Minister for Planning and Infrastructure, Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Tourism, Culture and the Arts, and Minister for Disability Services, Citizenship, Multicultural Interests and Women's Interests.


An assault is the act of inflicting physical harm or unwanted physical contact upon a person or, in some specific legal definitions, a threat or attempt to commit such an action. It is both a crime and a tort and, therefore, may result in either criminal and/or civil liability. Generally, the common law definition is the same in criminal and tort law.

Traditionally, common law legal systems had separate definitions for assault and battery. When this distinction is observed, battery refers to the actual bodily contact, whereas assault refers to a credible threat or attempt to cause battery. Some jurisdictions combined the two offences into assault and battery, which then became widely referred to as "assault". The result is that in many of these jurisdictions, assault has taken on a definition that is more in line with the traditional definition of battery. The legal systems of civil law and Scots law have never distinguished assault from battery.

Legal systems generally acknowledge that assaults can vary greatly in severity. In the United States, an assault can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony. In England and Wales and Australia, it can be charged as either common assault, assault occasioning actual bodily harm (ABH) or grievous bodily harm (GBH). Canada also has a three-tier system: assault, assault causing bodily harm and aggravated assault. Separate charges typically exist for sexual assaults, affray and assaulting a police officer. Assault may overlap with an attempted crime; for example an assault may be charged as an attempted murder if it was done with intent to kill.

Assaulting a constable in the execution of his duty

Assaulting a constable in the execution of his duty is a statutory offence of aggravated assault in England and Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Hong Kong.

Battery (crime)

Battery is a criminal offense involving unlawful physical contact, distinct from assault which is the act of creating apprehension of such contact.

Battery is a specific common law misdemeanor, although the term is used more generally to refer to any unlawful offensive physical contact with another person, and may be a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the circumstances. Battery was defined at common law as "any unlawful and or unwanted touching of the person of another by the aggressor, or by a substance put in motion by him." In most cases, battery is now governed by statutes, and its severity is determined by the law of the specific jurisdiction.

Criminal procedure in Hong Kong

Following the common law system introduced into Hong Kong when it became a Crown colony, Hong Kong's criminal procedural law and the underlying principles are very similar to the one in the UK. As if in other common law jurisdictions, Hong Kong follows the principle of presumption of innocence. This principle penetrates the whole system of Hong Kong's criminal procedure and criminal law. Viscount Sankey once described this principle as a 'golden thread'. Therefore, knowing this principle is vital for understanding the criminal procedures practised in Hong Kong.

Failure to appear

In law, failure to appear consists of a defendant or respondent failing to appear at (or within) the stated time before a tribunal as directed in a summons. Where the conduct alleged in the summons or complaint is an infraction or summary offence, failure to appear is a process crime for which a bench-warrant can be issued if the defendant promised to appear. If the conduct alleged is a tort or other cause for civil action, failure to appear generally results in a default judgment by the court in favor of the plaintiff/petitioner.

Fear or provocation of violence

Fear or provocation of violence is a statutory offence in England and Wales created under the Public Order Act 1986.

The offence is created by section 4 of the Public Order Act 1986:

(1) A person is guilty of an offence if he -

(a) uses towards another person threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, or

(b) distributes or displays to another person any writing, sign or other visible representation which is threatening, abusive or insulting,with intent to cause that person to believe that immediate unlawful violence will be used against him or another by any person, or to provoke the immediate use of unlawful violence by that person or another, or whereby that person is likely to believe that such violence will be used or it is likely that such violence will be provoked.

(2) An offence under this section may be committed in a public or a private place, except that no offence is committed where the words or behaviour are used, or the writing, sign or other visible representation is distributed or displayed, by a person inside a dwelling and the other person is also inside that dwelling.

It replaces the offence under section 5 of the Public Order Act 1936.


The term felony originated from English common law (from the French medieval word "félonie"), to describe an offense that resulted in the confiscation of a convicted person's land and goods, to which additional punishments including capital punishment could be added. Other crimes were called misdemeanors. A felony is traditionally considered a crime of high seriousness, whereas a misdemeanor is regarded as less serious. A felon is a person who has committed a felony. Following conviction of a felony in a court of law, a person may be described as a convicted felon.

Some common law countries and jurisdictions no longer classify crimes as felonies or misdemeanors and instead use other distinctions, such as by classifying serious crimes as indictable offences and less serious crimes as summary offences.

In the United States, where the felony/misdemeanor distinction is still widely applied, the federal government defines a felony as a crime punishable by death or imprisonment in excess of one year. If punishable by exactly one year or less, it is classified as a misdemeanor. The classification is based upon a crime's potential sentence, so a crime remains classified as a felony even if a defendant receives a sentence of less than a year of incarceration. Individual states may classify crimes by other factors, such as seriousness or context.

In some civil law, such as Italy and Spain, the term delict is used to describe serious offenses, a category similar to common law felony. In other nations, such as Germany, France, Belgium, and Switzerland, more serious offenses are described as crimes and misdemeanors or delicts (or délits) are less serious. In still others (such as Brazil and Portugal), crimes and delicts are synonymous (more serious) and are opposed to contraventions (less serious).

Hybrid offence

A hybrid offence, dual offence, Crown option offence, dual procedure offence, offence triable either way, or wobbler is one of the special class offences in the common law jurisdictions where the case may be prosecuted either summarily or as indictment. In the United States, an alternative misdemeanor/felony offense (colloquially known as a wobbler) lists both county jail (misdemeanor sentence) and state prison (felony sentence) as possible punishment. Similarly, a wobblette is a crime that can be charged either as a misdemeanor or an infraction.

Index of criminology articles

Articles related to criminology and law enforcement.

Indictable offence

In many common law jurisdictions (e.g., England and Wales, Ireland, Canada, Hong Kong, India, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, Singapore), an indictable offence is an offence which can only be tried on an indictment after a preliminary hearing to determine whether there is a prima facie case to answer or by a grand jury (in contrast to a summary offence). In the United States, a crime of similar severity and rules is called a felony, which also requires an indictment.


Infringement refers to the violation of a law or a right.

Infringement may refer to:

Infringement procedure, a European Court of Justice procedure to determine whether a Member State has fulfilled its obligations under Union law

Intellectual property infringement, violating an owner's exclusive rights to intangible assets such as musical, literary, or artistic works

Copyright infringement, the use of works under copyright, including reproducing, distributing, displaying, or performing the copyrighted work without permission

Patent infringement, using or selling a patented invention without permission from the patent holder, typically for commercial purposes

Trademark infringement, a violation of the exclusive rights attaching to a trademark without the authorization of the trademark owner or licensees

Secondary infringement, when a party contributes to or is responsible for infringing acts carried out by another party

Summary offence or infraction, a crime that can be proceeded against without a jury trial and/or indictment in some jurisdictions

Intentional harassment, alarm or distress

Intentional harassment, alarm or distress is a statutory offence in England and Wales. It is an aggravated form of the offence of harassment, alarm or distress under section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986.


A misdemeanor (American English, spelled misdemeanour in British English) is any "lesser" criminal act in some common law legal systems. Misdemeanors are generally punished less severely than felonies, but theoretically more so than administrative infractions (also known as minor, petty, or summary offences) and regulatory offences. Many misdemeanors are punished with monetary fines.

Section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986

Harassment, alarm or distress is an element of a statutory offence in England and Wales, arising from an expression used in sections 4A and 5 of the Public Order Act 1986, which created the offence. The Act was amended in 1994.

Summary (law)

Summary, in law, forms many compounds as an adjective meaning "short, concise":

Summary abatement, the abatement of a nuisance without judicial proceeding, even without notice or hearing, often by a destruction of the offending thing or structure. 39 Am J1st Nuis § 183 et seq.

Summary contempt proceeding, a proceeding to adjudicate contempt in the immediate presence of the court, without pleading, affidavit, or formal charges—albeit the accused may be entitled to a hearing or at least opportunity to make an explanation of his conduct under oath. 17 Am J2d Contpt §§ 86-88.

Summary conviction, convicting an accused without giving him the benefit of a jury trial and/or indictment.

summary court-martial, the lowest in the rank of courts-martial, conducted before one commissioned officer, limited in jurisdiction to offenses of a minor or petty nature of which enlisted men, not commissioned officers, stand accused.

Summary dismissal, a dismissal of a civil service employee without giving him opportunity to defend himself or a hearing of any kind. Anno: 131 ALR 396.

Summary forfeiture, a forfeiture to the state of property without giving the owner opportunity to be heard. Anno: 17 ALR 574.

Summary execution, an execution in which a person is accused of a crime and then immediately killed without benefit of a full and fair trial.

Summary judgment

A judgment in a summary proceeding, as one rendered pursuant to statute against the sureties on a bond furnished in an action. 50 Am J1st Suret § 209. A judgment in certain actions specified in the statute providing the remedy, rendered upon plaintiff's motion, usually with supporting affidavits, upon the failure of the defendant to controvert the motion by filing an affidavit of defense or his failure to file an affidavit of defense or affidavit of merits sufficient to show the existence of a genuine issue of fact. 41 Am J1st Pl § 340.

A motion for summary judgment is not a trial; on the contrary it assumes that scrutiny of the facts will disclose that the issues presented by the pleadings need not be tried because they are so patently insubstantial as not to be genuine issues at all. Consequently, as soon as it appears upon such a motion that there is really something to "try," the judge must at once deny it and let the cause take its course in the usual way. Cohen v Eleven West 42nd Street (CA2 NY) 115 F2d 531.

Summary jurisdiction, a jurisdiction exercised by summary proceedings, as in a bankruptcy court. 9 Am J2d Bankr § 68.

Summary jury trial, an alternative dispute resolution technique, increasingly being used in civil disputes in the United States

Summary offence, a crime in some common law jurisdictions that can be proceeded against summarily, without the right to a jury trial and/or indictment. Typically minor or petty offenses.

Summary order, a decision without an opinion explaining the decision.

Summary possessory proceeding (summary process), a proceeding, summary in character, to which a landlord may resort for the recovery or possession of leased premises when he becomes entitled to possession. 32 Am J1st L & T § 1016.

Summary proceeding.

A proceeding by which a controversy is settled, case disposed of, or trial conducted in a prompt, simple manner without the aid of a jury and without observance of requirements which prevail in a plenary action in reference to commencement of action, service of papers, etc. Western & A. R. Co. v Atlanta, 113 Ga 537, 38 SE 996. A proceeding in the Bankruptcy Court upon petition and answer at a day set for hearing upon notice or order to show cause against the relief proposed. 9 Am J2d Bankr § 69. A proceeding before an administrative body, requiring notice and hearing, but not requiring a full compliance with the rules governing trials of civil actions. Emerson v Hughes, 117 Vt 270, 90 A2d 910, 34 ALR2d 539.

Summary proceedings are not conducted without proper investigation of the facts, or without notice, or an opportunity to be heard by the person alleged to have committed the acts, or whose property is sought to be affected. The term summary proceedings is also applied to proceedings which are taken lawfully, but without resort to the courts, such as the physical abatement of a nuisance, or the recaption of goods. Western & Atlantic Railroad Co. v Atlanta, 113 Ga 537, 38 SE 996.

Summary trial, a trial of a person on a criminal charge, without a jury. A trial in a summary proceeding.

Summary process

Summary process may refer to:

Summary offence, a summary way to proceed in criminal cases;

Eviction, a summary way to evict a tenant in landlord-tenant disputes


A summons (also known in England and Wales as a claim form and in the Australian state of New South Wales as a court attendance notice (CAN)) is a legal document issued by a court (a judicial summons) or by an administrative agency of government (an administrative summons) for various purposes.


Transgression may be:

A Biblical transgression is a violation of God's Ten Commandments or other element of God's moral law; sin (1 John 3:4)

A legal transgression, a crime usually created by a social or economic boundary

In civil law jurisdictions, a transgression or a contravention is a smaller breach of law, similar to summary offence in common law jurisdictions.

A social transgression, violating a norm

Classes of crimes
Elements of crimes
Inchoate offences
Offences against the person
Sexual offences
Public order offences
Offences against property
Forgery, personation and cheating
Offences against justice
Other common law areas


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