Frequently Asked Questions
A conditional sentence is a sentence of imprisonment that is served in the community. An offender receiving a conditional sentence must comply with the following mandatory conditions:
In addition, the court may order that the offender obey additional conditions. Common conditions include: not possessing weapons, not using alcohol or drugs, performing community service, and attending a treatment program.
A sentence of two years or more must be served in a federal penitentiary, while a sentence of less than two years is served in a provincial institution.
The Criminal Code sets out maximum terms of imprisonment ranging from two years to life for all indictable offences, and unless otherwise specified, six months for summary conviction offences. These maximum terms provide a guideline to the court as to how seriously Parliament and society regard the particular crime. It is only in the most serious of circumstances that the maximum penalty is imposed. For certain offences the Criminal Code imposes minimum terms of imprisonment. In such cases, the court cannot sentence the offender to a lesser term.
These basic principles usually guide the sentencing process:
If the terms of imprisonment are served consecutively they will be one after the other. Concurrent terms are served at the same time. Generally, a concurrent sentence is ordered where the offences were committed together and within a short period of time. Where the offences are totally unrelated and took place at different places and times, consecutive sentences are usually imposed. In such cases, the court must ensure that the total term is not excessive.
The judge may consider several factors, including:
The Criminal Code also states that all available sanctions other than imprisonment should be considered where reasonable, and particular attention should be given to Indigenous offenders and their particular circumstances. A pre-sentence report may be helpful to canvass some of the issues such as substance abuse, poverty, racism, and family or community breakdown. A restorative approach is to be encouraged where suitable.
A Victim Impact Statement is a written statement from a victim’s point of view that is submitted to the court. The victim can describe the harm that has been done and the impact of the crime on their life. A Victim Impact Statement may be prepared by a person who has suffered physical harm or emotional loss from a crime. If the victim is unable to make a statement, their spouse, close relative, or dependant may make the statement for them. Survivors of a deceased victim and parents of a child can also make a statement.
Every victim of a crime has the right to present a Victim Impact Statement to the court and to have it taken into account upon sentencing.
Where the total term of the sentence is not more than 90 days, the court has the discretion to order that the time be served intermittently (at distinct intervals such as on weekends). Such sentences allow the offender to remain employed, continue in school, or otherwise avoid financial hardship.
The granting of an absolute discharge means that you have been found guilty but have not been convicted of the offence. A conditional discharge has the same result as an absolute discharge except that the sentenced person must obey a set of conditions in a probation order for a specific period of time.
An application can be made to have an accused person (usually a habitual offender or dangerous sexual offender) declared a “dangerous offender”. If this is done, the offender can be sentenced to an indeterminate (indefinite) period of imprisonment. After the first seven years in custody, and every two years after that, the National Parole Board must review the offender’s circumstances to decide whether parole should be granted.
If you do not follow the conditions, the court can revoke the discharge and substitute a more severe penalty for the offence.
An offender who does not obey a specified condition can be charged with the offence of failing or refusing to comply with a probation order. The penalties for such an offence can include the imposition of further conditions, an extension of the order, or a fine or imprisonment. If the offender is convicted of another offence at any time during the probation period, the court may revoke the probation order and impose any sentence which could have been imposed for the original offence, change the conditions of the order, or extend its terms.
The Criminal Code limits the amount of the fine imposed for a summary conviction offence to a maximum of $2,000 for individuals and $100,000 for corporations. There is no limit to the amount of a fine imposed for an indictable offence.
The court imposes an additional penalty on an offender who has been convicted of a provincial offence or a federal offence under the Criminal Code or the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. The money goes into a trust account to provide services for victims of crime. The court can waive the surcharge in certain circumstances.
The court may order that the offender compensate the victim for property lost or damaged, loss of income or support as a result of injuries suffered, and moving and temporary housing expenses for having to leave the offender’s household in domestic violence situations.