Lesson 2: Criminal Sentencing

Topic 2: Process of Sentencing

Presently the criminal law courts have several options when sentencing offenders. This gives the court considerable latitude to consider the nature of the crime, the offender, the victim, public safety and the society at large. The following options may be used.

Absolute and Conditional Discharge: An absolute discharge means the offender will be viewed as not having a conviction, whereas a conditional discharge means the offender must follow certain guidelines for a specified period of time. Upon successful completion the offender will be given an absolute discharge.

Probation: A court order for a term of up to 3 years which contains conditions to control an accused’s behaviour in the community. These conditions generally include behaviour expectation, including consumption of alcohol or drugs or possession of weapons and may also impose community service hours. A probation order may stand alone, be in combination with a fine or in combination with a jail sentence of 2 years or less.

Restitution: This is a payment made by an offender to the victim to cover expenses arising from the crime.

Fines: Are monetary penalties which may be imposed alone or in combination with incarceration or with probation.

Conditional Sentence: A conditional sentence is a sentence of incarceration served in the community, with the conditions of the sentence (such as curfews, restricted movement or contact with named others) forming the “walls” of the prison.

Intermittent Imprisonment: For custodial or jail sentences of 90 days or fewer, an offender can serve the sentence intermittently and be bound by a probation order while at large between times in prison.

Imprisonment: The most serious sentencing option available and may range anywhere from one day to a maximum of life in prison.

Long Term Offender: Offenders found by the court to be at risk to re-offend but where there is a reasonable possibility of eventual control of the risk in the community will receive a sentence of imprisonment longer than two years and community supervision order for up to 10 years.

Dangerous Offender Declaration: Section 753 of the Criminal Code allows the court to categorize the most dangerous offenders (those whose past aggressive, violent or sexual behaviour establishes a pattern that is unlikely to be able to be changed) and sentence them to an indefinite period of imprisonment.

Learn more in the Criminal Code.