The Canadian criminal justice system has a complex and constantly evolving set of rules and regulations that attempt to keep order in society. When convicted of a crime in a court of law, there are many forms of punishment that can be handed down to an offender. The Judge usually has discretion regarding what sentence is appropriate for a particular crime and offender unless there is a mandatory minimum sentence which limits the judge’s discretion.
You can be sentenced only if you have been found guilty or if you have pled guilty.
Here in Canada, sentencing attempts to serve many purposes. The goals of sentencing are as follows:
- to act as a specific deterrent to the offender and to generally deter other’s in society from committing crime
- to denounce unlawful conduct
- to protect society
- to punish the offender
- to rehabilitate the offender
- to act as form of retribution for victims.
In an earlier article we addressed how your mental state (“mens rea”) determines whether you may be found guilty of committing a crime which in turn affects the sentencing. Here we will help you understand the types of sentencing that you may encounter in Canada.
A Conditional Discharge has an almost literal translation. It is where an offender is found guilty of committing a crime but is not given a registered conviction. The individual is given a set of “conditions” in a probation order that if not followed, could result in being charged with a further crime. This charge stays on the offender’s record for three years after completing the probation order and he/she doesn’t need to apply for a pardon for it to be removed. The offender does not receive a criminal record
An Absolute Discharge is very similar to a conditional discharge. The only difference is that there is no probation order; no rules or stipulations are given to the offender. However, it will stay on the offender’s record for a full year after the discharge date. There is no need for the offender to apply for a pardon to remove the charges from their record. Again, the offender does not receive a criminal record.
A Probation Order is a legal order from the court which requires an offender to complete a set of guidelines and rules during a specific period of time. The probation order is simply a list of orders by the judge requiring the offender to do certain things and to refrain from doing other acts. The probation order is geared towards the offender’s rehabilitation and can be accompanied with a fine. For example, the offender could be required to report regularly to a probation officer and take counselling for drugs, alcohol, or anger management at the discretion of the probation officer. Assuming there was a victim of the crime, the probation order would also require the offender not to communicate or associate with the victim directly or indirectly and not to attend at their residence or place of employment. A probation order is always given with a suspended sentence and a conditional discharge. The offender is assigned a probation officer who acts in a supervisory capacity to report whether or not all conditions are followed. An offender can be charged with a criminal offence by their probation officer if the terms and conditions of the probation order are not followed. A probation order has a time span of up to a maximum of three years.
A Suspended Sentence has the same characteristics as a conditional discharge. The only significant difference is that a suspended sentence stays on your criminal record, and a pardon has to be applied for to have it removed.
A Fine is a monetary value that is imposed on an offender that has to be paid to the Court within a certain amount of time. Depending on the offence, it can be given instead of jail time or in addition to the minimum required incarceration period. In addition to a fine, there is a victim fine surcharge that is usually added in the amount of 30% of the fine.
Imprisonment simply put is incarceration in a jail. An offender goes to jail and has a registered conviction against them that can only be removed from their record by a pardon. Depending on the length of stay, the prisoner can be sent to county jail for shorter periods of up to several months, a provincial reformatory (if the sentence is less than two years) or a federal penitentiary (if the sentence is more than two years). The offender would then be eligible to receive early parole for good behaviour based on the rules and guidelines of the Canadian parole system.
There are other types of sentencing that can be imposed for certain types of offences such as a conditional sentence (“house arrest”).
The criminal defence lawyers and staff at Kruse Law always provide a knowledgeable, professional and efficient service to all our clients. Our primary goal is to either have your charges dismissed or produce a result that has the minimum effect on your life, based on your unique circumstances. We always strive for the best result possible and if there is a way to win your case, we will find it. Your best interest is always our first interest. Call us at one of our local Ontario offices or call us toll-free for a no-cost initial consultation. You can also visit our website at www.kruselaw.ca and email us the particulars of your criminal legal problem.