As we have said, criminal offences are classified as either summary, indictable or “hybrid” (ones that can be treated as either summary or indictable). To find out what type a particular offence is, read the section of the Criminal Code or other statute that creates the offence.Generally, summary offences are the most minor, indictable offences are the most serious, and of course hybrid offences tend to fall in between, in an area of overlap. A great number of offences are hybrid.
There are a various type of offences and if you are not specially educated about law, you most likely don’t even know them. When dealing with any type of criminal offence or anything else that involves breaking the law, the safest thing is to hire a lawyer to deal with the situation.For hybrid offences, the Crown decides (“elects”) whether to proceed summarily or indictable. Until it elects one way or the other, the offence is considered to be indictable, but if the Crown does not elect, and simply goes to trial in provincial court, it is considered to have elected to proceed summarily, and from then on, the offence is viewed as a summary one.
Summary offences are tried in provincial court, before a judge of that court sitting alone, with no jury. There is never a jury in provincial court.
There is a list of hybrid offences in s. 553 of the Criminal Code (including theft under $5,000 and driving while disqualified) which are also tried before a provincial court judge sitting alone, regardless of whether the Crown elects to proceed summarily or by indictment. These are the “absolute jurisdiction” offences.
Otherwise, someone charged with an offence that is proceeded with indictably can generally elect how they want to be tried [s. 536]: by provincial court judge sitting alone [s. 554], or in superior court, either by judge alone or by judge and jury. If the accused elects to be tried in the superior court, there will first be a preliminary inquiry in provincial court, to see if there is sufficient evidence to make a trial worthwhile.
If he or she does not make any election, there will be a superior court trial with a jury. This sometimes happens when two (or more) people are charged together, and elect different types of trial. The justice taking the election can record that as “no election”, in which case both the accused will be tried in front of a jury [s. 567].