First-Time Offender? Our Lawyers Can Help You Avoid a Criminal Record

The sentencing phase of a criminal file is too often overlooked despite being the most consequential phase of the judicial process. Ultimately, the sentence imposed will have the most significant impact on the offender’s future. With various sentencing options available to the judge, it is essential to start preparing early to secure the best possible outcome.

We approach every case with the goal of presenting a joint submission to the judge. A sentence that has been negotiated in advance and jointly presented to the judge removes stress and uncertainty, as the offender knows the sentence they will receive before walking into court. We have experience negotiating complex, serious, and highly consequential criminal files, allowing our clients to avoid a criminal record.

Of course, joint submissions aren’t possible in some cases, and it’s up to a judge to determine which sentence to impose. That’s where a sentencing hearing comes in. 

Understanding Our Approach to Sentencing

Preparing The Sentence From Day One

We recognize that, in most cases, those charged with a crime end up before a judge to be sentenced. To prepare for this reality, we work with our clients to create a profile that highlights their positive contributions to society and shows that criminal behaviour is not representative of who they are. We start this process early on so our clients can focus on self-improvement, which helps us negotiate or plead for a sentence that might be difficult to obtain otherwise.

Negotiation For A Joint Submission

When it comes to sentencing, our goal is always to present a joint submission. We do this by engaging in meaningful negotiations with the prosecutor to present a holistic picture of our clients. This includes presenting the client’s profile, as well as the rehabilitative steps they have undertaken, to illustrate that the events in question do not reflect their general character. This allows us to negotiate a more lenient sentence. Joint submissions are the preferred outcome because the judge will almost certainly accept them. This gives our clients the assurance of knowing the outcome before they step into court and eliminates the stress of uncertainty. We take pride in working collaboratively with the prosecutor to present a joint submission that secures an ideal sentence for our clients.

What To Do Next

If you’ve been convicted at trial or are ready to plead guilty and are worried about going to jail or the imposition of a criminal record, you’ve come to the right place. We understand exactly how you feel and are prepared to take on your case to provide you with the guidance and support of experienced counsel who have repeatedly helped people just like you. We can help you turn your life around. 

Contact S. Zalman Haouzi Avocat today and speak with experienced counsel who are ready to take on your case and guide you through this difficult time.

STEP INTO OUR OFFICE

UNDERSTANDING THE SENTENCING Phase

What is a Sentence Hearing?

A sentence hearing takes place when the prosecutor and the defence cannot agree on the sentence. A sentencing hearing is a “mini-trial” where the judge must determine the appropriate sentence. The judge will take into account the nature of the offence and the specific circumstances of the offender. Sentencing is a highly individualized process, meaning two people can commit the same crime but receive different sentences. During the hearing, both the prosecution and defence present evidence to support their respective positions. The victim may testify or present a victim impact statement, while the offender usually takes the stand to give testimony. Both the Crown and the defence will make oral arguments, supported by relevant case law, to persuade the judge in favour of the sentence they seek.

What is a Pre-Sentence Report, and is a judge bound by it?

A pre-sentence report (“PSR”) is a comprehensive assessment a probation officer prepares following an interview with the offender. The PSR provides the judge with an in-depth understanding of who the offender is (their past, present, and future) to impose a just sentence. While a pre-sentence report is not binding per se, it often plays an important role in the judge’s assessment of the offender. For this reason, before our clients meet with the probation officer, we prepare them for what’s to come to present the best version of themselves.

What is a Joint Submission, and is the Judge Bound by a Joint Submission?

A joint submission, commonly referred to as “suggestion commune” in French, is when the defence lawyer and the prosecution jointly recommend a sentence to the judge. A judge will only reject a joint submission if it is contrary to the public interest. In that sense, joint submissions are almost always accepted by the judge. This is because they are the fruit of weeks of back-and-forth negotiation between the Crown and the defence, who are intricately aware of the details of the offence and the offender’s profile. Judges are, therefore, understandably hesitant to deviate from the joint submission, particularly when both attorneys are experienced.

Other than jail, what sentences can a judge impose?

Sentencing is a highly individualized process, and judges have various options at their disposal other than imposing a jail term, ranging from an absolute discharge to life imprisonment. The sentence is determined based on the facts of each case and the offender’s profile. Here are some of the available sentences:

  • Absolute or conditional discharge – is a sentence in which an offender is found or pleads guilty, but no conviction is formally registered, meaning they do not receive a criminal record. When an offender receives a probation order attached to their discharge, it is known as a conditional discharge. 
  • Peace Bond (810) –  is essentially a restraining order for up to one year; it does not require an admission of guilt, and no criminal record is imposed. 
  • Suspended sentence – is essentially a probation period of up to three years. 
  • Fines are the imposition of monetary penalties that carry the imposition of a criminal record. 
  • Conditional Sentence Order – is serving a jail sentence in the community (house arrest) for a period of up to 2 years less a day. 
  • Intermittent jail sentence – serving a jail sentence intermittently (usually on weekends for one or two days a week) for a period of up to 90 days.

Facing criminal charges in Montreal or surrounding areas? Contact us now—we’re here to help!

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