The Classification of Offences in Canada and the United States

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If you’re charged with a crime in Canada or the United States, in legal terms, it means that you’ve committed a specific kind of offence. And when you get a criminal charge, it’s essential to understand the severity of the crime to get a primary idea of your fate.

Read this article to fully understand the classification of offences in Canada and the United States.

What is the Classification of Offences in Canada and the United States?

Any offences fall under the federal law of Canada and the United States. However, the classifications are different for these two countries.

Connecting to that, both in Canada and Us, offences are divided into three broad categories. The following sections describe the variety of offences in these two countries individually.

What Are the Types of Offences in Canada?

There are 3 types of criminal offences in Canada under the Criminal code are—

  • Summary Offence
  • Hybrid Offence

Let’s know about them in detail.

Summary Offence

This kind of offence involves less serious charges and penalties. So, an example can be—disrupting the peace. 

Let’s say someone is screaming on the street for 15 minutes. That’s fairly a disturbance for the public, and people can arrest you for that. Additionally, you could be found guilty of screaming needlessly.

Although this is a minor offence, it’s still a crime. Considering that the penalties for a summary conviction in Canada are—

  • 6 months of jail with or without a $5000 fine
  • Or 24 Months of jail with or without a $5000 fine

If you’re accused of a summary offence, you can only know about your charges in the provincial court. Also, you won’t get a judge and jury or any preliminary hearing.

However, in terms of a summary offence, you don’t need to appear in court before the trial date. For the court appearances, a lawyer can do it on your behalf.

List of summary offences in Canada

Some of the most common summary offences are—

  • Unauthorized gathering
  • Causing public disorder
  • Seeking prostitution
  • Annoying phone calls
  • Causing a commotion in a public setting
  • Public vulgarity
  • Late night trespassing
  • Getting transport illegally
  • And many more.

Indictable Offence

Unlike summary offences, indictable offences include the most serious kinds of crimes. As a result, the consequence of an indictable offence is also severe. Anyone found guilty of conducting an indictable offence in Canada can get any of the following penalties.

  • 5 years of jail
  • 25 years of jail
  • Life sentence

In terms of indictable crimes, an offender can ask for a preliminary investigation. Also, they can choose either a judge only or a jury trial.

Note that murder trials will always be jury trials. However, if you can make a special appeal to a judge or the crown and the defence can agree with the appeal, you can avoid the jury trial.

List of indictable offences in Canada

The most common indictable offences are—

Hybrid Offence

The largest number of crimes in Canada turns out to be hybrid offences. Another term is dual proceedings or offences. A hybrid offence can be a summary or indictable crime.

How is that determined? It depends on the severity of the crime. So, the crown must determine to what extent a violation has caused harm.

Let’s consider a dual proceeding offence. For example, it’s a case of bodily assault. Assault is rather a comprehensive term because one can get minor bruises on hands and legs after a physical assault, or a person can get their hand or leg broken.

If the injury is less serious, it will be a summary offence. And if the person is severely injured, it will be an indictable crime.

Based on the type of acquisition, the accused will have a preliminary hearing in your provincial court. On the other hand, if the crown deems a crime serious, the case will be handled in your provincial superior court.

List of hybrid offences in Canada

The mostly seen hybrid offences are—

What are the types of offences in the US?

The three major types of crimes in the US are—

  • Infractions

Let’s know about them in detail.


These kinds of offences are also known as petty crimes. Often these violations come under municipal laws and state laws. Some well-known examples of infractions are unlicensed boating, illegal fishing, running a business with a license, and traffic rules violation.

There isn’t a specific penalty for these minor violations. However, you might have to pay some fines and a probation order if you commit an infraction.


These crimes are more serious than infractions but less serious than felonies. Usually, these acts are punishable. And the penalty may involve fines, prison terms, and probation orders. Examples of misdemeanours can be: kidnap, rape, treason, and robbery.

Classification of misdemeanours

The classifications of misdemeanours vary among states. In many states of the US, there are three different kinds of misdemeanours, as follows—

  • Petty misdemeanours: Maximum 6 months of jail and $500 fine
  • Ordinary misdemeanours: Maximum 6 months of jail and $1000 fine
  • Gross misdemeanours: Maximum 1 year of jail and $2000 fine

Other than these, in some states, there are classes of misdemeanours. For instance, Virginia has classes where Class 1 to Class 4 indicates the most serious misdemeanour. On the other hand, you’ll find A-class, B-class, and unclassified misdemeanors in New York.


This is the most serious form of offence in the US. As this is the most serious crime, one can get more than 1 year of a jail sentence. Some examples of felonies are assault, manslaughter, murder, robbery involving a firearm, and organized crimes.

In the US, there are 5 different classes of felonies as follows:

  • Class A: Death penalty, maximum $250,000 fine, maximum 5 years parole term.
  • Class B: Maximum 25 years of jail sentence, maximum $250,000 fine, maximum 5 years parole term.
  • Class C: 10-25 years jail term, maximum $250,000 fine, 3 years of parole term.
  • Class D: 5-10 years of jail term, maximum $250,000 fine, 3 years of parole term.
  • Class E: 1-5 years of jail term, maximum $250,000 fine, 1 year of parole term.

Concluding Remarks

Both Canada and the US have extensive criminal codes and strong law enforcement services. Besides, prosecutions in these countries are powerful. Now, you understand thoroughly how classifications of crimes influence criminal proceedings.

And in case you need legal help regarding any criminal offences, seek an expert lawyer’s help immediately to figure out your stance in a case.


If you need further clarification regarding the types of offences in Canada and the US, check the following queries.

How are criminal Offences classified in Canada?

Criminal offences are classified based on the seriousness of crimes. So, a summary offence is less severe, an indictable offence is more serious, and a hybrid offence can be either less severe or more severe.

What is the classification of Offences?

The three classifications of offences in Canada are Summary, Indictable, and Hybrid. The first one is less serious, the second one most serious, and the third can be less or more serious depending on the damage done.

What are the three types of classifications of Offences in Canadian law?

Among three types, the first one is a summary offence that includes minor crimes. Another is an indictable crime that lists severe crimes. And the final one is a hybrid crime, where the offence can be serious or less serious.

How are crimes classified in Canada?

Crimes are classified in Canada based on the seriousness of the crimes. For example, if someone harasses you over a call, it is considered less serious (summary offence) than a physical assault (indictable offence).

How are crimes classified in the US?

Crimes in the US are divided by degree of severity. Whereas illegal boating is an infarction as it’s a minor violation, a kidnap is a misdemeanour as it’s more serious. Again, murder is a felony because it’s the most serious crime.

What's a felony called in Canada?

In Canada, indictable crimes are equivalent to felonies. The reason is that both types of offences from the US and Canada include the most serious violations, such as murder, treason, organized crimes, drug trafficking, etc.