Montreal Sentencing Hearings Lawyer
What Is A Sentencing Hearing?
Sentencing hearings take place after an accused person chooses to forgo a trial by taking responsibility for their actions and pleading guilty before a judge or after they’re found guilty at trial. A sentencing hearing shifts the legal question from “can the state prove your guilt” to “what should the state do with you now”? In the vast majority of cases, an accused person will plead guilty rather than take their case to trial (usually with the hope of obtaining a more lenient sentence)
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.
The Importance Of Sentencing Hearings
The sentence that the judge orders is arguably the most consequential aspect of a criminal case in terms of its long-lasting impact on your life. That’s why we don’t view sentencing as an afterthought; it’s something that we consider from the first consultation and something we begin preparing for the moment we believe that a guilty plea (or guilty verdict) is a possibility.
What We Do
We meet with our clients to get a better understanding of their individual circumstances (both in terms of the underlying issues that led to the charges, as well as the future goals that a conviction for these charges could undermine). It’s through understanding these issues that we can propose a means of resolving the charges satisfactorily. It’s not uncommon for us to propose rehabilitative elements (such as anger management, counselling, sex therapy, Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, and more) both to the client during our meetings, as well as to the prosecutor during our negotiation on sentencing. It’s our goal that, by the time our clients present themselves before the judge, they have already turned their lives around, making punitive sentencing purposeless. Ultimately, when it comes to sentencing, our goal is always to present a joint submission.
What’s A Joint Submission?
A joint submission is when both the defence and the prosecutor present the judge with a proposed sentence that is mutually agreed upon. Joint submissions are an ideal outcome because they are significantly more likely to be accepted by the judge, providing the accused with the comfort of knowing the outcome before they step into court. When it comes to securing an ideal sentence for our clients, we pride ourselves on our ability to collaborate with the prosecutor to present a joint submission.
What Happens If The Prosecutor Doesn’t Agree To Present A Joint Submission?
In the event where we’re unable to successfully negotiate a joint submission with the prosecutor, we set down for a sentencing hearing, where we persuasively make the case before the judge that the sentence that we’re seeking is the most just. On top of skillfully presenting a glowing picture of our clients’ circumstances, we present to the judge important case law of offenders who committed similar offences in similar circumstances to illustrate a (sometimes binding) legal basis for our sentencing submissions.
If you or a loved one is currently facing criminal charges and are worried about the potential consequences if convicted, contact S. Zalman Haouzi Avocat today for a consultation!