Crown Election

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General Principles

See also: Types of Offences and Election

The Crown has the power of election on hybrid criminal offences. A hybrid offence is an offence defined in the Criminal Code as having both summary and indictable classes of punishment.

The election process is a "means by which the criminal law provides the Attorney General with sufficient flexibility to take the specific circumstances of each case into account and ensure that, in each case, the interests of justice are served." [1]

No offences with maximum penalty of 14 years or life are hybrid.[2]

Timing of Election
Elections are not necessarily made at with full knowledge of the case, nor it is expected to be the case.[3]

Election Procedure
Interpretation of the meaning of the Crown's words when making an election or re-election should be read in the context of the entire court record.[4]

Appeal Standard
Whether a matter is part of the discretionary core functions of the Attorney General is a question of law.[5]

  1. R v Century 21 Ramos Realty Inc. and Ramos, 1987 CanLII 171 (ON CA)
  2. See List of Offences by Penalty
  3. R v Nur, 2015 SCC 15 (CanLII) at para 97
  4. R v Horton, 2014 ONCA 414 (CanLII), - ambiguous comment regarding election not interpreted as implicit re-election
  5. R v Nixon, 2009 ABCA 289 (CanLII) at para 13

Presumptions

Hybrid offences are deemed to be indictable until the Crown elects to proceed summarily.[1]

Hybrid offences are treated as indictable during the proceedings until such time as the Crown makes their election.[2] Where the Crown fails to make their election, they are deemed to have made a summary election.[3]

Where a proceedings progresses to its conclusion without the Crown having made an election on a hybrid offence and the charge was within 6 months of the incident, the Crown is deemed to have elected to proceed by "summary conviction".[4]

However, where the accused elects mode of trial even though the Crown failed to make an election, the trial will be deemed indictable.[5]

Where the offence is prosecuted by indictment there is a statutory presumption under s. 471 that the trial will be by judge and jury.[6]

  1. R v Paul-Marr, 2005 NSCA 73 (CanLII) at para 20
    R v Dudley 2009 SCC 58 (CanLII) at para 21
  2. c.f. see s. 34 of the Interpretation Act (Election is deemed to be indictable "unless and until the Crown elects to proceed summarily")
  3. R v Dudley 2009 SCC 58 (CanLII) para 18, 21
    R v Dixon, 2013 BCCA 41 (CanLII) at paras 21 - 25, 42
    see also Paul-Marr, supra at para 20
  4. R v Mitchell, 1997 CanLII 6321 (ON CA)
    R v Marcotullio (1978), 39 CCC (2d) 478 (Ont. C.A.) (*no link)
    R v W. (W.W.) (1985), 20 CCC (3d) 214 (Man. C.A.) (*no link)
  5. R v Mitchell (1997), 1997 CanLII 6321 (ON CA), 121 CCC (3d) 139 (Ont. C.A.)
  6. see "471. Except where otherwise expressly provided by law, every accused who is charged with an indictable offence shall be tried by a court composed of a judge and jury."

Crown Discretion

See also: Prosecutorial Discretion

The power to elect mode of procedure for prosecution is at the discretion of the Crown.[1]

Review of Crown Election

See also: Abuse of Process

The Crown election may only be reviewable by a court where the election amounts to an abuse of process.

The decision of the Crown to make an indictable election must amount to flagrant impropriety.[2]

  1. Smythe 1971 SCR 680 (CanLII)
  2. R v Slaney, 2013 NLCA 70 (CanLII) at para 6

Re-Election

The Crown has the common law right of re-election after making an initial election. In certain cases consent of defence or the judge will be required.[1]

It is an open question whether a re-election constitutes a commencement of a new proceedings under s. 786(2).[2]

A re-election to an indictable charge to proceed by summary election while the charge is before a superior court judge is permissible, but once re-election is complete the matter should be remitted to provincial court for guilty plea and sentencing. The superior court does not have jurisdiction to handle sentencing.[3]

  1. R v DME, 2014 ONCA 496 (CanLII) ("the common law equally permits the Crown, having once elected one mode of proceeding in connection with a hybrid offence, to re-elect later the other mode of proceeding. In some instances consent of the accused and approval of the presiding judge may be required.")
  2. DME, ibid. at para 45
  3. DME, ibid.

Summary Election Time Limitation

Proceedings on summary offences must commence within six months of the incident date unless the Crown and Defence agree to waive the time limitation.[1] The Crown has no jurisdiction to make a summary election outside of the 6 month period of time.[2] Summary elections on an information sworn more than 6 months after the subject matter of the proceedings is "null and of no effect".[3]

The 6 month limitation under s. 786 does not count from the beginning of the offence where it spans several days. An offence spanning a timeframe will be valid for the entire span as long as the end date is within the 6 month limit.[4]

It is acceptable practice to elect indictable in order to allow the prosecution to proceed, such as where the 6 month time limit has expired, and then re-elect summarily with consent.[5] The judge cannot interfere by refusing to allow re-election.[6]

If the Crown elects by summary conviction despite being outside the permissible time limitation, the Crown has several options:[7]

  • may change its election and proceed by indictment once it has discovered its error. It is not bound by the initial election.[8]
  • withdraw the original information, lay a new information and elect to proceed by indictment
  • seek consent of the accused to continue by summary conviction.
  1. s. 786(2) states ("No proceedings shall be instituted more than six months after the time when the subject-matter of the proceedings arose, unless the prosecutor and the defendant so agree.")
  2. R v Karpinski, 1957 CanLII 9 (SCC), [1957] SCR 343, 117 CCC 241, per Fauteux, J. at p. 249 (C.C.C.) stating (there are “no rights for the Crown to elect to proceed by way of summary conviction and no jurisdiction for the Magistrate to accept and act upon the election by receiving a plea”)
  3. R v P. W. K., 1998 CanLII 7145 (ON CA) at para 31
  4. R v Nadir, 2004 CanLII 59965 (ON CA)
  5. R v Burke, 1992 CanLII 7121 (NL CA), (1992), 78 CCC (3d) 163 (NLCA)
  6. R v Linton, 1994 CanLII 7272 (ON SC), (1994) 90 CCC 528
  7. R v Roulette, 2009 MBPC 3 (CanLII)
  8. R v Burke, 1992 CanLII 7121 (NL CA) at para 14 citing Ewaschuk
    See also R v Belair, (1988) 26 O.A.C. 340; 41 CCC (3d) 329 (*no link)

Crown's Failure to Elect

Crown's election can be "deemed" by means of "the way in which the pleadings were conducted".[1]

This usually means they are deemed to have made a summary election.[2]

Section 34(1)(a) of the Interpretation Act creates a presumption of an indictable election.[3] Where the presumption is not displaced, and the pleadings did not include a proper election address any verdict can be quashed and become a nullity.[4]

Where a proceedings progresses to its conclusion without the Crown having made an election on a hybrid offence and the laying of the charge was within 6 months of the incident, the Crown is deemed to have elected to proceed by "summary conviction".[5] This will vary in some circumstances.[6]

However, where the accused elects mode of trial even though the Crown failed to make an election, the trial will be deemed indictable.[7]

  1. R v Matthews, 2015 NSCA 4 (CanLII) at para 13
  2. R v Dudley 2009 SCC 58 (CanLII) para 18, 21
    R v Dixon, 2013 BCCA 41 (CanLII) at paras 21 - 25, 42
    see also R v Paul-Marr, 2005 NSCA 73 (CanLII) at para 20
  3. Matthews at para 12
  4. Matthews at para 18
    see also R v Paul-Marr, at para 33
  5. R v Mitchell, 1997 CanLII 6321 (ON CA)
    R v Marcotullio (1978), 39 CCC (2d) 478 (Ont. C.A.) (*no link)
    R v W. (W.W.) (1985), 20 CCC (3d) 214 (Man. C.A.)
    see also R v Ashoona (1985), 19 CCC (3d) 377 (N.W.T. S.C.) (*no link)
    R v Gal (1985), 60 A.R. 333 (Alta. Q.B.)
  6. R v Matthews, at para 17
  7. R v Mitchell, 1997 CanLII 6321 (ON CA), (1997), 121 CCC (3d) 139 (Ont. C.A.)

See Also