Criminal offences are classified as either summary or indictable. The simple distinction between summary and indictable offences is that summary offences have lower maximum penalties and less serious consequences in other respects. There are important differences in the legal procedures which apply to each type of offence. Some of the most common criminal offences, such as impaired driving, assault on a peace officer, theft, or possession of stolen property where the value of what is taken or possessed is less than $5,000, may be summary or indictable at the option of the prosecutor. This also includes many criminal charges under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, including possession of marijuana, hashish, heroin, cocaine, and so on. The prosecutor has a right to elect whether to proceed against the accused by way of summary proceedings or by indictable offence. On a first offence, the prosecutor normally opts to proceed by way of summary proceedings and may choose to proceed by indictable offence for a second or subsequent instance. The prosecutor may also choose to proceed by way of indictable offence on a first offence if the circumstances are particularly serious.
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