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What is the statute of limitations on criminal charges? How long do police have to lay criminal charges? Of all the concerns people have after committing an offence, waiting for the police to show up is likely near the top of the list. And for good reason – no one wants to spend more time than necessary in a law enforcement interrogation room or jail cell. So how long do you have to wait before the police come knocking? Surprisingly, there’s no simple answer. But we’re here to give you a rundown of what you can expect with respect to that limitation period.

The type of offence and the actual criminal code charges along with the allegations will determine if there is a limitation period on how long police have to lay charges. The more serious the offence, the more serious the allegations and the possible consequences, including the likelihood of going to jail will all determine the statute of limitations of criminal charges.

Summary Conviction vs Indictable Offence

summary conviction offence is generally considered less serious. These are sometimes referred to as petty crimes, such as “disturbance in a public place” or even a Highway Traffic offence. For a summary offence, police have up to six months to press criminal charges.

There is no statute of limitations on criminal code charges that are indictable offences. An Indictable offence is treated and sentenced much more severely. They may include charges involving violence or sexual offences or homicides with life sentences. Indictable offences are considered to present a much larger risk to the community. Of note, most criminal charges in the criminal code are considered hybrid, meaning that the Crown Prosecutor can decide to proceed by summary conviction or by indictment.


Offences are often classified as hybrid rather than pure summary offences. In the event of a hybrid offence, the Crown is able to choose whether to pursue a summary or indictable conviction. After the six months have passed, the Crown can no longer pursue a summary conviction without the defendant’s consent.

So why would you consent to be charged? Once the window has closed for pressing summary charges, a hybrid offence only allows the Crown to pursue an indictable conviction. Indictable offences carry much more serious penalties. As such, it may be in your best interest to consent to summary charges in hopes of a more favourable sentence. Some indictable offences have mandatory minimum sentences that apply and limit some possibly dispositions.

Should I Consent? Is the Statute of Limitations on Criminal Charges Important?

Facing less severe sentencing will always sound like a better option. But whether or not you should consent is best determined on a case-by-case basis. You should always discuss your options with a criminal defence lawyer.

Your defence lawyer is better equipped to examine the case against you. They can assess whether the Crown has a strong enough case to be worth pursuing as an indictable conviction. Examining the evidence and circumstances may unveil that they may not have a strong enough position to seek an indictable conviction. If so, it may be best not to consent.

If, however, the available evidence suggests that you are likely to be convicted, consenting may be the better option. This way, a conviction will lead to less severe sentencing, and can even open the possibility of alternative sentencing. In some instances, it may even be possible to avoid a criminal record.


Before agreeing to any plea deal, consenting to charges, or speaking to the police, you, should speak an experienced Toronto criminal defence lawyer and get legal advice. Your criminal lawyer will help you understand your charges, what the statute of limitations are on you criminal cases, your legal options, and the possible range of consequences. Do not take that leap, without understanding what you’re jumping into.

William Jaksa is an experienced criminal defence lawyer who will help protect your rights and interests. Book a consultation today.

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