Election and Plea

"Resolution discussions are an essential part of the criminal justice system. When properly conducted, they benefit not only the accused, but also victims, witnesses, and the administration of justice generally."

- The Martin Committee Report, 1999

What’s an Election?

Both the Crown and the accused may have elections to make. The Crown, if the offence is a hybrid offence, may elect to proceed either by summary conviction or by indictment. An election to proceed by summary conviction typically signals a less serious offence and limits the maximum sentence to 2 years. Moreover, a summary conviction can be eligible for a record suspension after 5 years. On the other hand, an indictable offence typically signals a more serious offence and carries higher maximum penalties. The waiting period for a possible record suspension is also increased to 10 years.


The accused, if faced with an indictable offence, also has an election to make: they may elect the mode of trial. If the offence has a maximum penalty of less than 14 years, the accused can elect a trial by provincial court judge, by superior court judge, or in superior court with a jury. If the offence carries a maximum sentence of more than 14 years, then the accused may elect to have a preliminary inquiry along with a superior court trial. Contact our office for a free 30 min consultation to discuss your rights.

What's a Plea?

There are two pleas ordinarily available to accused persons: guilty and not guilty. If an accused person pleads not guilty, then a trial is set, and the Crown’s allegations will have to be demonstrated beyond a reasonable doubt. If an accused person pleads guilty, then the right to a trial is waived and the matter proceeds to sentencing.

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The Crown and defence’s elections and the accused person’s plea are two of the most important steps in the criminal process. The Crown’s election has significant influence over the legal jeopardy of the accused person. The accused person’s choice of mode of trial not only has legal implications for their defence but must also be weighed with such factors as the length of the proceedings and associated costs. Moreover, the accused person’s choice of plea – whether to resolve or to go to trial – is likely the most difficult choice they will be called upon to make. Defence counsel can provide accused persons with practical, experienced advice as to how they should these difficult decisions.

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If you have any questions, contact our offices now so we can help address you or your loved one’s legal jeopardy. We are available 24/7. We are forceful advocates and we ensure that our clients throughout Alberta are provided with the best defence possible.