What is Indictable Offence in Canada?

What is Indictable Offence in Canada

Offences and crimes very commonly happen in any country. There are different types of crimes and offences around the world. In Canada, the Criminal Code outlines a wide range of violations and offences. According to the Criminal Code, there are two main types of offences: summary and indictable.

So, what is indictable offence in Canada? Indictable offences in Canada are the more severe ones that result in serious and heavier consequences. Summary offences are the less severe offences that result in less severe penalties. This article describes the definition, types of indictable offences, list of offences, associated penalties, etc. It will also help you to get an overall idea of the indictable offences.

What is an Indictable Offence in Canada?

An indictable offence in Canada is a serious crime persecuted through a formal court process. It is known as a major crime in the Canadian Criminal Code.  This process requires a preliminary inquiry to know if there is enough evidence for a trial.

The indictable offences in Canada carry the potential for lengthy sentences compared to the other offences. Sometimes, the sentences can exceed two years and involve a more legal and complex process.

Compared to summary offences, it is a more serious process that involves a complicated court process. As a result, it requires a more rigorous judicial response.

Legal Definition of Indictable Offences

In the Criminal Code, the legal definition of indictable offences is outlined. According to Section 469, certain offences are true indictable offences, while others may be known as summary offences. The ‘true indictable offence’ may include murder, treason, or certain types of sexual assault.

The Criminal Code did not outline a single definition of indictable offences. Rather, it identifies them through several factors:

  • Maximum penalty: Crimes punishable by imprisonment for more than two years are considered indictable.
  • Procedure: The indictable offence can also involve a preliminary hearing. There must be sufficient evidence to proceed further.
  • Trial options: The accused offender has the right to elect a trial by a judge with a judge alone or a jury only. This may vary depending on the specific offence.

Types of Indictable Offences in Canada

There are mainly two different types of indictable offences. These are:

True Indictable Offences

Crimes described explicitly in the Criminal Code are known as Indictable Offences. These are crimes that are inherently serious and involve significant harm to individuals or society as a whole. The true indictable offences may include murder, treason, sexual assault, etc.

Hybrid Offences

Dual-procedure offences are known as hybrid offences. These offences can be persecuted by indictment or summarily. The persecution may vary based on the severity of the offences or the circumstances regarding the case. The common hybrid offences include robbery, fraud over a certain dollar amount, etc.

List of Indictable Offences in Canada

The Criminal Code has given a list of indictable offences that may be persecuted by indictment. Here are some of the examples:


This is considered one of the most serious indictable offences. Murder means causing the death of another person. Murder varies based on different degrees. For example, there are first-degree, second-degree, and third-degree murders and they are different in their intent and premeditation.


Treason is also an indictable offence that means betraying one’s country or sovereignty. This is often considered a threat to the nation’s security and may carry severe penalties.

Sexual Assault

Sexual assaults are also known as true indictable offences. The offences can involve non-consensual acts and can result in strict penalties. If you are falsely accused of a sexual assault charge, please get in touch with a lawyer. A criminal lawyer knows how to beat a falsely claimed sexual assault in court.


Manslaughter involves unlawfully causing the death of another person, but it differs from murder in terms of intent and culpability. Here, the unintentional killing results from recklessness or provocation.

Penalties for Indictable Offences

The penalties associated with indictable offences are more severe than summary offences. It depends on the nature and severity of the offence. Depending on the specific offence and severity, the penalties can range from:

Imprisonment: The indictable offences can lead to imprisonment for varying lengths. The sentences can range from a few years to life for the most serious crimes. For example, murder can lead to life imprisonment, while other offences may result in short imprisonment. But if a minor kills someone in self-defence, it will be treated differently in court, and in that case, hire a criminal defence lawyer.

Fines: Individuals convicted of some offences may need to pay financial penalties. The fine amount depends on the offence’s nature and impact on victims and society. If the victim’s loss is enough, the offender must pay more.

Probation: This is another potential consequence of being convicted of an indictable offence. During probation, individuals must follow specific conditions, such as regular check-ins with a probation officer and avoiding contact with some specific individuals.

Restitution: If the criminal causes financial losses to the victim, the court may order the offender to pay compensation for their losses.

Is Assault Summary or Indictable?

The classification of assault may vary depending on the severity of the act and the harm caused. In general, when the severity of the assault is less, it is considered a summary offence. Summary offence is punishable by six months in jail or a fine.

The more serious assaults, on the other hand, are considered indictable offences, carrying heavier penalties. For example, if the offender applies force to another person without their consent, that will be considered a summary offence. Assaults that involve weapons or cause bodily harm are known as an indictable offence.

Learn about: Difference Between Indictable and Summary Conviction Offences in Canadian Law

Final Words

Indictable offences are the most serious violations of the law that involve a comprehensive legal process and severe consequences. The nature and the severity of the crime determine whether the crime is an indictable offence or a summary offence.

As a Canadian, you must stay informed about the crimes to safeguard your rights and promote justice.


What makes assault indictable?

Several factors make the assault indictable. The factors may include the seriousness of the harm, use of weapons, aggravating factors, public interest, intent, victim vulnerability, etc.

Are assaults involving weapons automatically considered indictable?

Assaults that involve weapons are more likely to be considered indictable. The presence of weapons increases the possibility of serious harm. As a result, the Canadian Code tends to take a strict stance on such cases.

Can an assault with no visible injuries be considered indictable?

Yes, an assault can be classified as indictable even if there are no visible injuries. The severity of the offence is not determined through visible injuries. Rather, it can be determined by factors like the accused’s intent, use of weapons, and other aggravating circumstances.

What criteria determine whether an assault is classified as indictable?

The major criteria that determine the assault to be indictable are the use of weapons, harm inflicted, premeditation, the intent of the accused, the criminal history of the accused, and the vulnerability of the victim.

Can an assault be both summary and indictable?

Yes, an assault can be classified as both summary and indictable. The classification can be based on factors like the severity of the assault or the circumstances of the incident. So, the type of assault may determine this.