Understanding The Different Sentences Under The Criminal Code
Many people think that when it comes to sentencing, it’s merely a question of how long the offender will spend in prison, but the reality is far more nuanced than that, with prison being the sentence of last resort. The truth is that there are a number of different sentencing options available:
A discharge is where an offender pleads guilty but no conviction is formally registered, meaning they do not receive a criminal record. There are two types of dicharges: absolute discharges and conditional discharges. An absolute discharge is a sentence where the offender is “discharged absolutely” from the proceedings in exchange for pleading guilty to the charges; they receive no further punishment. A conditional discharge is the exact same, except the offender is given a term of probation and thus must abide by court-ordered conditions. In this sense, the offender is “discharged conditionally.”
A suspended sentence is a sentence where the court is willing to “suspend” the passing of a carceral sentence in favour of a guarantee to abide by certain probation conditions (for a term of usually between one to three years). What differentiates a suspended sentence from a conditional discharge is that with a suspended sentence, a conviction is registered and the offender receives a criminal record.
Fines are a monetary penalty involving financial compensation, where the offender pays a specific amount of money within an agreed upon period of time. Paying a fine carries the imposition of a criminal record and it’s not uncommon for a fine to be coupled with a probation order. The most common criminal charge resolved through the imposition of a fine is impaired driving.
Conditional sentence order
Colloquially referred to as “house arrest” because the offender spends the majority of their sentence at home, a conditional sentence is a sentence that one serves in the community under extremely strict and punitive conditions for up to two years less a day. A conviction is registered and the offender gets a criminal record. Upon the completion of the conditional sentence, it is not uncommon for a short period of probation to follow.
Also known as an intermittent sentence, this is a quasi-carceral sentence that is served in portions of time, such as during the weekend (although it can be any day of the week) for up to 90 days. Until the entirety of the prison sentence is served, the offender is on a probation order and a conviction is registered, meaning that they get a criminal record.