Is There a Statute of Limitations for Certain Criminal Offences

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In some countries, the statute of limitation for criminal offences is significant for providing legal certainty. It surely promotes judicial efficiency to the public. There comes two questions on mind.

Is there a statute of limitations for certain criminal offence in Canada? And what does the statute of criminal law in Canada offer? But worry not, today we will talk about criminal offences and statutes including hybrid offence statute of limitations.

All that said, the statute of limitations varies by jurisdiction and offence. So let’s find out what exactly the statute of limitation is and how it works in Canada.

What is the Statute of Limitation?

The statute of limitations in criminal offences is a time limit set by the law to determine the maximum period of putting an allegation after committing a crime. The prosecution cannot bring the charges against the accused after this time limit.

Jurisdiction can change the statute of limitation based on the harmfulness of the offence. Let us give you two examples to understand a bit better.

  • Medical Practice Crime: Civil law states that you have two years to take any legal steps after finding out anyone committing false medical practice. 
  • Murder or Manslaughter: Serious crimes like murder and aggravated offences have no limitation of time, so you can file charges anytime after the incident.

Is There a Statute of Limitations for Certain Criminal Offences?

Fortunately, the Canadian judiciary system does not want to let any criminal escape from his deeds. So, there is literally no statute of limitation in practical law.

But the time limit may vary depending on the certain type of charges. Let’s explore how is the statute of limitation in Canada for certain criminal offences in detail. 

How is The Statute of Limitation in Canada for Certain Criminal Offences?

Canadian law has categorized the offences into two sections. But sometimes, these two offences can form together, so we will consider the offences in three sections. Those are,

  • Indictable offences
  • Summary offences
  • Hybrid offences

Literally, there is a section in the Canadian Criminal Code that explains the fact better.

The Criminal Code Records on Statute of Limitation

Section 786(2) of the Criminal Code created a limitation period. It limits the initiation of a summary conviction prosecution after more than 12 months from the offence. 

Moreover, there are a variety of summary conviction offences in the legislation twitch a definition of the limitation period. Let us give you an explanation.

  • Under the Provincial Offence Procedure Act, a time of six months period applies to the offence in Alberta.
  • A prosecution can proceed by passing two ways. 1. summary conviction, 2. Indictment. Police cannot charge anyone if the crime takes place after 12 months.
  • The limitation period only applies to summary conviction prosecutions, so you must know what summary offence is.

Types of the Criminal Offences for Statute of Limitations

Indictable Offence

Indictable offence refers to a serious criminal offence heard in the higher level of court. It includes all the severe federal crimes such as 1. Murder, 2. Robbery, 3. Fraud, 4. Manslaughter, 5. Kidnapping, 6. Drug trafficking, etc. There is no limitation period to file the charges on these types of cases.

The indictable offences are handled by formal court proceedings. This type of offence can result in serious punishment like a lifetime in prison. A judge alone or a judge and jury together can try out the case.

Summary Conviction Offence

Summary conviction offences basically group some less harmful federal crimes which are heard in provincial courts. It includes minor violations of the law, such as 1. Theft, 2. Trespassing, 3. Minor assault, etc. Summary conviction offences result in lesser penalties, that’s why it is not counted as serious crimes. 

So, there is a 12 months limitation period after an offence like this. If anyone fails to file charges against this case within 12 months, the ability to file charges will be gone forever. Further, only a judge can try the summary conviction offence. It has no right to have a jury trial.

Hybrid Offence

The hybrid offence is a combination of offences, which is either prosecuted as a summary conviction offence or an indictable offence. The case can vary according to the circumstances. 

If the offence harms the victim badly, it follows the rule of an indictable offence, whereas trivial harm follows the rule of summary conviction offence. In Canada, most of the offences fall under this section such as 1. Impaired driving, 2. Theft, 3. Simple drug possession, etc. 

Why Does Summary Conviction Have a Statute of Limitation?

Well, we already got the idea that summary conviction offences are not as serious as indictable offences. The criminal code has described some reasons to take the offence lightly.

  • The accused can grow public morals which were not inside him during the incident in past.
  • It does not feel okay to punish an offender regarding simple allegations without any strong evidence.
  • Simple crimes can have damaged evidence, which can ruin the life and dream of a suspect.

Is There Any Benefit of Statute of Limitations for Certain Criminal Offences?

Sometimes, the statute limitation becomes controversial for helping a potential criminal escape through the space of the law. But, it will feel beneficial once you think about these points.

Evidence Loss: When important evidence is lost, an accused can get penalties he should not get. The bad memories of the witnesses can influence the judge to take the wrong decision.

Judicial Efficiency: The judge can take over other cases to reduce the backlog. Otherwise, there will be a load of cases that the system will not be able to handle single-handedly.

Time Certainty: People have a clear timeframe to file any charges, except making it undefined and harassing people from the past life.

Wrap Up

We hope you don’t have to ask anyone if is there a statute of limitations for certain criminal offences if you have read our article carefully. The statute of limitations is the duration of the time period a case can have legal proceedings. After the statute of limitations time goes up, no one can take legal action on the case.


What crimes have no statute of limitations in Canada?

There are a series of crimes that has no statute of limitation for their horrible aftershock. We have listed some crimes like that, which are, 1. Murder: Homicide, 1st-degree, 2nd-degree, and manslaughter have no statute of limitation. 2. War & Humanity Crime: International crimes will be prosecuted for the entire lifetime of the accused. 3. Treason: Giving any threat to the country or leaking security data will have no statute of limitation.

What happens if the statute of limitations expires before charges are filed?

A statute of limitations is the deadline for filing a lawsuit against any suspected criminal. But, when the statute of limitation is over, no one can file a legal claim against that person. There will be a lot of misleading information if they accused the person and try the case in court. So, the statute of limitation avoids all the conflict and encourages people to file a case at the right time.