Sentencing Options In Canada And Principles of Sentencing

Sentencing Options In Canada And Principles of Sentencing

If an accused person has been found guilty, they will receive a sentence as ordered by the court. The federal Criminal Code lists all of the criminal offences and their accompanying sentences in Canada.

Sentencing is guided by the principle that the sentence should match the offender’s degree of responsibility for the offence. The more responsible the offender and the more serious the crime, the higher the sentence. For example, first-degree murder, which requires premeditated planning, receives the harshest sentence of life imprisonment.

The following article provides a brief overview of sentencing principles and options in Canada.

According to the Department of Justice, the main purpose of sentencing is to contribute to a respect for the law and to a just, peaceful, and safe society by imposing fit sentences that have the following objectives:

  • Discourage the offender and the public from committing similar crimes
  • Promote a sense of responsibility in offenders and acknowledgment of the harm done
  • Separate offenders from society when necessary
  • Denounce the unlawful conduct and harm caused to the victim
  • Assist in rehabilitating the offender
  • Provide reparations for harm done to the victim and the community

Sentencing Options

When determining the appropriate sentence, the court considers the victim’s statement on the damage that the offence has caused in their life, including physical or emotional harm, economic loss, or property damage. This is called a Victim Impact Statement. Depending on the offence, the court may also consider a Community Impact Statement.

In determining the sentence, a court also considers:

  1. The fairness of the sentence under the circumstances
  2. The offender’s degree of responsibility
  3. The seriousness of the offence
  4. If an aggravating factor (e.g. prior criminal record) merits increasing the sentence
  5. If a mitigating factor (e.g. no prior criminal record) merits decreasing the sentence

Sentences in Canada can be of various types and combinations:

1) Fine:

The offender may have to pay a set amount of money for committing the offence, and the fine may accompany other sentences, such as jail time. If an offender does not pay the fine, they may potentially face a civil judgement against them or jail time.

2) Imprisonment:

For some offences, the offender may be sentenced to jail time. Sentences that are less than two years are served in a provincial correctional system while sentences that are more than two years are served in a federal penitentiary.

3) Life Sentence:

If an offender has committed first or second-degree murder, they will be sentenced to life imprisonment. In cases of first-degree murder, an offender is not eligible for parole until they have served 25 years of their sentence, while second-degree murder requires that an offender serves between 10-25 years to be eligible.

4) Absolute Discharge:

If a person is found guilty of a crime but the judge decides that it isn’t very bad and should not be punished, they might receive an absolute discharge.

5) Conditional Disch0arge:

If a sentence is less serious, they have to go to rehabilitation.


6) Intermittent Sentence

The court can assign punishment of less than 90 days to serve over the weekends. Sentences come with probation orders to make sure they stay in line while living their lives.


7) Suspended Sentence and Probation:

If a person commits a crime, the court may let them go if they don’t commit another crime for awhile. A court may also order a conditional discharge in addition to other penalties.


8) Conditional Sentence:

If a court orders imprisonment for less than 2 years, the sentence does not have to take place in jail. The court will consider public safety in making the decision.


9) Indeterminate Sentence for Dangerous Offenders:

A dangerous offender may be sentenced to an unspecified period of detention.


10) Restitution Order:

The court may order the offender to pay back money that they have taken from the victim.


11) Victim Surcharge:

If a court has not imposed a fine, the surcharge is $100 for summary conviction offences or $200 for indictable offences. A court has the power to increase the amount of the surcharge if the offender merits an increase.

This article is only a brief overview of the complex and significant issue that is sentencing. 

If you are looking for more information, do not hesitate to contact us and our Criminal Lawyers can discuss your matter in more detail over a free consultation. You can reach our office at 905-366-0202 or contact us through our website here

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