Canada and the United States both have comprehensive criminal codes, with sophisticated law enforcement agencies and powerful prosecutorial offices to punish violations of their respective laws.

Offences in Canada

In Canada, the federal Criminal Code applies uniformly throughout the nation.

Indictable Offences

Generally speaking, the most serious crimes are classified as straight indictable offences. These include murder, manslaughter, treason, and aggravated sexual assault. The penalty for these crimes can include up to life imprisonment.

Summary Conviction Offences

Less severe crimes are straight summary conviction offences, such as simple assault, soliciting prostitution, and trespassing at night. The penalty for a summary conviction is less than two years in jail.

Hybrid Offences

Hybrid offences comprise the vast majority of Criminal Code offences. These crimes, such as sexual assault, may be charged as either indictable offences or a summary conviction offences. The choice is at the discretion of the crown prosecutor. In making their decision, the crown prosecutor will often consider the circumstances and the relative seriousness of the alleged offence as well as the criminal record (if any) of the accused.


Parole is a supervised release from prison. It is available to most offenders after they have served a prescribed period of time in prison. For example, a person convicted of first-degree murder must wait 25 years to apply for parole, which is not automatic. In most cases however, parole is automatic after an offender has served part of their sentence.

Record Suspensions

A person who obtains a record suspension has the records related to their conviction and punishment “suspended” from federal databases. Criminal record checks of their name will come back clear. However, the person’s criminal record can be “revived” if they are convicted of a further offence at a later date.

The law is very complicated as to who and when someone may apply for a record suspension. Generally, but subject to numerous exceptions, a person convicted of an indictable offence must wait ten years after completing their sentence to apply. Those convicted of most summary conviction offences must wait five years after completing their sentence. Some convictions, such as sexual offences involving a minor, or where a person receives a life sentence, are not available for a record suspension.

When considering whether to grant a record suspension, the parole board factors in the applicant’s good behaviour, prospects for rehabilitation in society, and whether the record suspension would bring the administration of justice into disrepute.

Common Questions about Offences in Canada

What is a felony in Canada?

The term is not used in the Canadian criminal justice system. An indictable offence is a helpful comparison.

What is a misdemeanour in Canada?

This term is not used either. However, a summary conviction offence is comparable.

Offences in the United States

The criminal justice system is more complicated in the United States because each state has its own comprehensive penal code. There is also the federal code, which generally applies to crimes under federal jurisdiction, such as treason or interstate fraud, and to all types of crimes committed on federal property.

The summary here will focus on federal criminal law provisions, but state law will be discussed when there is an absence of a federal provision.

Felonies in Federal Law

Felonies are serious crimes, with a complicated hierarchy of prison terms and fines.

What is a Felony Charge?

Crimes charged as felonies include treason, murder, and sedition. Felonies carry lengthy prison terms and fines of up to $250,000. There are five classes of felonies, divided according to prison sentence length, as follows:

  • Class A. This is a felony conviction where the convicted person serves a life sentence or is sentenced to death.
  • Class B. The convicted person serves twenty-five years or more.
  • Class C. This felony carries a prison sentence of less than twenty-five years but ten or more years.
  • Class D. This felony carries a prison sentence of less than ten years but five or more years.
  • Class E. The convicted person serves less than five years but more than one year.

Misdemeanours vs. Felonies

Misdemeanour charges are less severe crimes, like simple assault, some forms of bribery, and many types of theft.
There are various classes of misdemeanours, with prison sentences ranging from five days to less than one year. Fines range from $5,000 to $250,000.

Infractions in Federal Law

Infractions are minor crimes, like most traffic violations. They are punishable by five days or less in prison and/or a fine of not more than $5,000.

Wobblers in the United States

Wobblers are crimes that can be charged either as a felony or a misdemeanour. Federal criminal law has no provisions for wobblers. Most states, however, do. While the law of wobblers is not uniform, California’s provisions (outlined below) are representative of how wobblers work in state criminal justice systems.

Common Types of Wobblers

Crimes that can be wobblers include sexual battery, burglary, stalking, forgery, and spousal battery. Wobblers are not automatically reduced to misdemeanours. Instead, the prosecutor may consider these factors:

  1. The defendant’s age, prior record, and severity of the crime;
  2. The defendant’s cooperation with law enforcement; and/or
  3. The strength of the prosecution’s case.

Parole in the United States

Parole does not exist in the federal criminal justice system. Parole is prevalent in state systems, but the details vary widely.

Expungement in the United States

Expungement is not available for federal convictions. Most states offer the opportunity for expungement, but the laws vary markedly.
*NOTE: Canadians who receive record suspensions must be careful to obtain advice from an immigration lawyer before traveling to the United States, since the US Federal Justice System does not recognize such mechanisms.

Canada and the United States Compared

Despite differences in terminology, the types of criminal offences are comparable in both countries. Indictable offences and felonies are similar. Summary convictions and misdemeanours/infractions are also generally alike. Hybrid offences are called wobblers in the United States.

Both Canada and most American states allow procedures for parole and record suspensions.

Other Points of Comparison

Crime Rate

The recent crime rate in the United States is 47.70. This is higher than Canada’s rate of 40.64. Though there is no single reason to explain the difference, one possible explanation is the wider legality of guns in the United States.

Death Penalty

Perhaps the most important difference between Canada and the United States is the death penalty. The death penalty was abolished in Canada in 1976, but it remains in effect in the United States, one of only 14 countries in the world to still allow this most extreme punishment.

By |2023-11-08T20:08:39+00:00March 9th, 2021|Criminal Defence|

5/5 - (1 vote)

Criminal Lawyers Association
Toronnto Lawyers Association
Law Society of Ontario
Criminal Lawyers Association
Toronnto Lawyers Association
Law Society of Ontario
Excellent5.0 Based on 110 reviews fromNorbert WysockiNorbert Wysocki ★★★★★ Igor and his team provided excellent service in very delicate and emotional case. They were extremely supporting and knowledgeable. Thank you for everything you have done!Jason WorthJason Worth ★★★★★ Words cannot describe what Igor has done for me. Igor is the most skilled and amazing attorney I have ever met in my entire life. I had a long list of charges (some that carried some serious penitentiary time) and worked some serious magic with countless hours behind the scenes for me to make just 1 appearance and have ALL THE CHARGES WITHDRAWN and a peace bond put in place. The timeframe for it was amazing as well he took care of me and this situation in only 15 months! (we all know the justice system does not work that fast normally!) If you want a very highly skilled, passionate, available(Igor would take calls and messages even after normal hours to fill me in!), experienced and dedicated attorney that will work tirelssly with you and for you to get you the absolute best results then Igor is your man! 5 stars does not do this man justice he deserves 100 stars!N AlyN Aly ★★★★★ Great lawyer. Knowledgeable and helpful. 10/10 would recommend :)GLORIS SPENCEGLORIS SPENCE ★★★★★ Working with Igor and his team during a very unpleasant situation has been a blessing. Even though the legal process was a lengthy one, they were there to answer the questions and concerns we had.Thankfully, it's all over and settled and hopefully we'll not need his services again, but it is reassuring to know that if the situation should every arise where legal counsel is needed, Vilkhov Law Professional will be there in my corner.Thank you.Scott K.Scott K. ★★★★★ I would like to give Igor 5 stars for handling my serious case for the last 11 months of my life. In December 2022, I was wrongfully accused of 2 serious charges under my name however, Igor took care of it from the beginning and finally all of those wrongful charges are withdrawn and now I feel much better and at ease. I am very glad that Igor could help me throughout the hard process and bring out the best result possible! Also, what I want to pinpoint out for the most is that he picks up the call by himself and you get to contact directly with him whenever you have questions or want updates throughout the process. I know that it could be tiring for lawyers who have other clients at the moment but Igor always keep a close contact with his client and I was always able to talk to him directly when I needed for the last 11 months. At last, I wish all the best for Igor and hope that god blesses throughout his career and may he be able to offer his professionalism to help other people in need. Thank you Igor :)SAID ALISAID ALI ★★★★★ Igor is an exceptional lawyer! I am very thankful for his excellent professional legal advice and assistance, he was able to drop my S.A charges. Thank you Igor for everything you've done, I really appreciate your services.M AlyM Aly ★★★★★ I was charged with SA, which rarely ever get dropped and generally always go to trial. Igor Vilkhov was able to get my charges fully withdrawn with no consequences or harm to me.Every lawyer I spoke with quoted me astronomical fees and explained how they would have to jump through hoops and perform ‘legal gymnastics’ to help me. Igor was the only lawyer who gave me a fair and realistic fee structure. He walked me through what the process would look like and gave realistic expectations. It was clear from the start he knew what he was doing and that his experience was significant. Throughout the process he provided regular updates and was always reachable. If you’re charged, I highly recommend at least speaking with Igor before making a decision on an attorney.Melissa HinrichsenMelissa Hinrichsen ★★★★★ Igor was amazing to deal with. His response time was amazing compared to others. He knew what I needed and got the job done. I highly recommend to everyone.NicoleNicole ★★★★★ Very kind and helpfulDevere SDevere S ★★★★★ Mr.Vilkhov is a professional and very good lawyer, goes through everyrhing to make sure it gets dealt with properly, He replies fast if you have questions or anything as well, along with his staff Jessica she was a big help as well.Jessica Gavrikov-ZinchenkoJessica Gavrikov-Zinchenko ★★★★★ Igor Vilkhov is a one-of-a-kind lawyer, his skills truly exceed expectations. He is incredibly diligent and has a passion for ensuring that his clients receive the best possible representation. Additionally, he has a wonderful team behind him, ensuring that his business operations and client relations are running smoothly.Saira JawaidSaira Jawaid ★★★★★ Igor is a good friend and colleague of mine that has helped me tremendously in my legal profession. I can always rely on him for any legal related questions. I’ve personally worked with him and I can say with confidence he is a hard working, dedicated, result focused lawyer. Keep up the hard work!Daniel SlobodkinDaniel Slobodkin ★★★★★ I have known Mr. Vilkhov in a professional and personal capacity for several years. Mr. Vilkhov is a well-respected and devoted criminal lawyer who prioritizes the success and livelihood of his clients. Mr. Vilkhov goes out of his way and makes time, at all times of day, to tend to the needs of his clients. Mr. Vilkhov is a diligent lawyer I would recommend to anyone dealing with a criminal matter. Well-spoken, confident, methodical and professional are qualities that only begin to scratch the surface of Mr. Vilkhov's criminal law practice and his character at whole.mike cookmike cook ★★★★★ I can’t say enough good things about my experience with Mr. vilkhov he truly takes pride in his work and did his absolute best to work on my case and get me the best deal I would recommend him to everyone. Hiring Mr .vilkhow will be the best decision for anyone to make he’s truly amazing at what he does .Amina HuseynovaAmina Huseynova ★★★★★ I've known Igor professionally for a long time, one of the most dedicated criminal lawyers I have met. He gets amazing results for his clients and I would recommend anyone who is looking to hire him.maddy mmaddy m ★★★★★ I am international student in Canada, six months ago I was falsely accused of SA and I was charged. I had never dealt with all this in my life and I started looking for a lawyer. I spoke too more than 50 lawyers all over ontario and every lawyer I spoke to tried to scare me and told me that I am a dead meat here and this thing is definitely going to trial and were only interested in talking about their fees. Mr Vilkhov patiently heard my case and told me that there is a high possibility of getting the case withdrawn . He was straightforward and honest. He convinced me after one call that he is the right lawyer for me to retain. He charged a very reasonable fee which he let me pay in installments. He kept me well informed about my case in every stage. Mr. Vilkhov and Daniel from his team were my constant support. Every message and every phone call was answered.Mr Vilkhov got the charges withdrawn!!! My case was in a jurisdictions were cases like these never get withdrawn. But Mr. Vilkhov gave his best and got the charges withdrawn without any conditions. I cannot thank Vilkhov law professional for giving my life back! Mr. Vilkhov is very knowledgeable and he is the lawyer you need by your side when you need it the most! He wins when you need it the most! Thank you Vilkhov law corporation!Jay ModiJay Modi ★★★★★ Igor and his team exceeded my expectations, efficiently getting all charges dropped in my case. His timely responses, coupled with Daniel's eloquence, made for an exceptional first-time experience with a lawyer. They provided a unique blend of empathy and straightforwardness that instilled confidence throughout the legal process. Highly recommendable for anyone in need of a criminal justice lawyer.Naqib PopalNaqib Popal ★★★★★ I just left Brampton courthouse. I was acquitted of 11 charges after a long trial. Igor Vilkhov absolutely killed it during the entire trial. If it wasn’t for him, I would be going to jail. Thank you so much for your work, you ensured the truth came out. Thank you, you got me my life back.Chad AllanChad Allan ★★★★★ Igor got me an amazing deal, he was always communicating with me and updating me about my case, he got me the deal of a lifetime and I can’t him enough. If you are reading this and you are thinking about who to hire, just call him, he is the right lawyer for you.Jamie LewisJamie Lewis ★★★★★ If you need a lawyer who is actually going to work for you, and get results go with Igor at Vilkhov Law. He was very patient and understanding and knows his stuff. I was facing a huge fine which would have devastated me financially for years to come, but with his passionate submission to crown on my behalf he was able to get the fine reduced by 90%. His colleagues he works with are amazing too. Thank you so much for all of your help through this matter Igor! You truely have saved my future. I appreciate it beyond measure! All the best in the future!Akash TyagiAkash Tyagi ★★★★★ Hi all, When i just came to Canada, i got charged with SA, which was a nightmare for me where my so called friends left my side. Then by luck i got to know Mr. Igor and that day changed everything.Being new in a country could cost me a lot but with Igor’s genuine efforts to help me, saved my life.A big thanks to him and god bless him.Must recommended lawyer.Thanks a ton Igor.❤️ted ferreirated ferreira ★★★★★ I met Igor approximately two years ago when we met with him regarding SA charges against our son. Over that time Igor was always there to answer questions that we had, he was reassuring explaining that we had a strong case.From the beginning we were impressed with Igor's demeanor, he was always calm and to the point, he did his best to keep us on track with the facts.Thanks to Igor's thorough preparation he was able to get the SA charges stayed. I cannot tell you how incredible that feeling was.We owe so much to him.We highly recommend Igor to anyone needing Legal help, he will work tirelessly on your behalf.OKOLI MARKOKOLI MARK ★★★★★ Thank you Igor Vilkhov for helping me go through my legal case from the very beginning to the end. Igor's professional advice and approach to difficult legal matter is excellent and recommended, Case has been withdrawn from court!! 1 million thanks for the support throughout this process 🙏.Laura BeniaLaura Benia ★★★★★ Professional, honest and caring.js_loader


“Caring, honest, and highly knowledgeable.”

Contact Igor for a Free Consultation!

Please contact us online for a free consultation.
Go to Top