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Sentencing

If you are found guilty of a crime the Crown Prosecutor and your lawyer, if you have one, can each recommend a sentence to the judge. The judge chooses from the range of sentences set by law. The judge may ask for a pre-sentence report before deciding on a sentence. A probation officer prepares this report. The information in it helps the judge decide a proper sentence.

Sentences

There are a wide range of sentences possible for most crimes. The law usually sets a maximum and sometimes a minimum sentence for each crime. A judge rarely gives the maximum sentence. The maximum sentence is for the worst offender who has committed the worst type of the offence. For some offences the judge has no choice in sentencing. For example, a person who is convicted of murder must be sentenced to life imprisonment.

The judge decides on the sentence by looking at the circumstances surrounding the offence. Previous offences will also be considered. The person's situation affects the judge's decision too. For example, the judge will consider things like the person's age, whether they have a job or suffer from a mental or physical illness.

Pre-Sentence Reports

Before deciding on what sentence to give, a judge may ask for a pre-sentence report. The pre-sentence report includes such things as the age, maturity, character, behaviour and attitude of the offender. It may also look at whether there are positive influences in the offender's life, the offender's school or employment record, any plans for personal development proposed by the offender and the availability of appropriate services and programs in the community.

In the case of offenders who were under the age of 18 when the offence was committed, the pre-sentence report is prepared by a community youth worker. For adult offenders it is prepared by a probation officer. The person who writes the report will interview the offender and others involved in the offender's life.

Absolute or Conditional Discharge

A discharge is when a person is found guilty or pleads guilty but is not convicted of the crime. The judge can put conditions on the discharge. Things like community service may be a condition. A discharge can be revoked if the offender does not abide by the conditions.

Dangerous Offenders

A person who committed a violent offence against another person may be declared to be a dangerous offender. This is done at a special hearing. Following this hearing the person may be sentenced to an indeterminate period of detention. Indeterminate means the judge does not say when the sentence ends. The dangerous offender is kept in jail with no fixed date for release. The National Parole Board reviews the case after seven years and every two years after that.

Suspended Sentence & Probation

In some cases, a judge can suspend passing a sentence and release a convicted person on probation. An indiviual on probation does not go to jail. They must follow conditions set by the judge. Conditions include things like staying out of trouble and reporting to a probation officer. A judge may also order that the offender perform community service work. Sometimes they may be ordered to pay money to compensate the victim. A probation order can be in effect for up to three years.

If the offender does not follow the terms of the order, they can be charged with breach of probation. A breach of probation charge is a separate criminal offence. Their probation could also be revoked. If this happens, the offender must go back to court and be sentenced for the original offence.

Other Sentences and Probation

Sentences that are for less than 2 years may be followed by a period of probation. The judge also may order a term of probation in addition to a fine.

Fines

A judge can order a fine. A fine is a set amount of money that the convicted person pays to the court. The judge may combine a fine with another sentence, such as jail and a fine. If the offender does not pay the fine, the judge may sentence them to jail time. Before imposing a fine, the judge must be satisfied that the offender has the means to pay the fine or can work it off.

If an offender needs time to pay the fine they can ask the judge for additional time to pay. In some cases they may be able to work off the fine.

Driving Prohibition

Anyone convicted of impaired driving or driving over the limit will be prohibited from driving for a period of time. See Drinking, Drugs and Driving for a detailed explanation of these laws and the consequences.

Compensation Order

The judge can order an offender to pay money for property damage or loss caused by the offence. This is called an order for compensation or restitution. The judge also can order an offender to pay money to an innocent individual who bought stolen property.

The judge does not have to make a compensation order. The judge may choose whether to make an order or not. If the judge chooses to make an order and the offender does not pay the money right away, the victim can file the order with the Court of Queen's Bench. This allows the victim to enforce the order by asking the Sheriff to seize and sell the offender's property.

Conditional Sentences

Conditional sentences are an addition to the traditional forms of imprisonment. The sentence is served in the community instead of jail. This type of sentence is available for most offences that do not involve serious personal injury and do not carry a minimum term of imprisonment. It can be for a period of less than two years. There are certain terms that are a part of the sentence. Along with supervision, these terms will govern the offender in the community. A conditional sentence may appear to be similar to a probation order. However, if the conditions of the sentence are not met, the offender may face harsher consequences. Violations could result in the offender serving the rest of the sentence in jail.

Jail

A person who is convicted of a serious offence or who is a repeat offender may be sentenced to jail. Based on the range of sentences allowed under the law, the judge will decide on the length of the jail term.

A sentence of 90 days or less may be broken up instead of being served all at once. For example, the judge may allow the person to serve their sentence only on weekends and holidays. This allows them to continue working, studying or looking after their family while serving a short sentence. When a person serving an intermittent sentence is out of jail, they are on probation.

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