Summary offence

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A summary offence, also known as a petty crime, is a criminal act in some common law jurisdictions that can be proceeded with, summarily: without the right to a jury trial and/or indictment (required for an indictable offence).

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United States

"Infraction" redirects here. For the medical term see Infarction.

In the United States, "there are certain minor or petty offenses that may be proceeded against summarily, and without a jury"[1][2] and which are codified in 18 U.S.C. § 19. Any crime punishable by more than six months imprisonment must have some means for a jury trial.[3] 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[.]'"[4]

Some states (Virginia) provide that in all offenses must at some point grant to the defendant a jury trial if they request it, meaning that one could obtain a jury trial in some states even for a parking ticket. Summary offenses have a length of time for which they are valid on a state's recordkeeping.[citation needed] In most states, summary offences last 5–7 years.[citation needed]

Criticisms

There have been criticisms over the practice. In particular, Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black wrote in a dissent that "[i]t 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."[5]

Canada

In Canada summary offences are referred to as summary conviction offences. 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 of Canada 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 $5000 or both. Section 786 of the Code has a statute that prohibits persons from being tried for a summary conviction offence more than 6 months after the offence was committed unless both the prosecutor and defendant agree otherwise.

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