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Types Of Sentence

There are different types of sentences that may be given to a convicted offender, either in combination or individually – discharges, fines, community supervision and imprisonment.

In addition to these sentences, the judge can order that the offender

  • be ineligible for parole for a period of time, up to half of the length of any jail term imposed
  • provide samples of DNA
  • register with the sex offender registry
  • surrender firearms and be prohibited from possessing firearms or explosives, etc.
  • pay restitution
  • be prohibited from driving a motor vehicle or vessel.

If there are Victim Impact Statements or other victim impact information, these must be considered by the judge before sentencing. Talk to your Victim Service Worker or Crown counsel for more information.


Discharges are not available for offences where a minimum penalty is prescribed, the penalty is for fourteen years or more and where it is contrary to the public interest.

  • An absolute discharge may be granted to an offender if it is in the best interest of the offender and not against the public interest. It is granted immediately without terms or conditions and the effect is that the offender is cleared of a criminal record. This might happen in the case of a shoplifter who has no previous history with the police.
  • A conditional discharge has the same effect as an absolute discharge but the accused must agree to conditions such as completing community service hours set by the judge before the discharge is granted. If the conditions are not met, then the discharge can be cancelled and the person will be re-sentenced.

The effect of a discharge is that the offender does not have a criminal record, which may effect the accused’s future employment, their ability to be bonded and their ability to cross the border.

Community Supervision

Alternatives to imprisonment may also be ordered, which may include the imposition of conditions, such as no contact with certain people, curfew, repayment of loss or damages, apologies, medical treatment, and reporting to an officer of the criminal justice system. Supervision may be in the form of a conditional discharge, probation, suspended sentence, or conditional sentence order.

  • A suspended sentence with a probation order occurs when the judge does not impose a sentence as long as the offender complies with the conditions listed in a probation order and exhibits good behaviour while under supervision.
  • A probation order may be imposed along with other types of sentences. The conditions may include reporting to a probation officer; not consuming alcohol or drugs; remaining in the jurisdiction of the court; living in a specific residence; non- association with the victim or others; a curfew; attendance at school; attendance at rehabilitation or addiction programs; a requirement to make suitable efforts to find work; community service hours with a community agency; or any other conditions that are appropriate.
  • A fine may be required to be paid by the offender to the court.
  • An intermittent sentence can be imposed for sentences of 90 days or less. In this case, the sentence is served in blocks of time, such as weekends, which allows the offender to be in the community for a specific purpose such as going to work or school, caring for a child or for health concerns. A probation order will also be made.
  • A conditional sentence of imprisonment, a jail sentence to be served in the community, can be imposed with conditions similar to those of probation. If the offender does not obey the conditions, the offender can be required to serve the balance of the sentence in jail instead of in the community.

Orders in Addition to Sentences Imposed

In addition to sentences imposed, counts may make other orders, such as:

  • An order for restitution may be ordered that requires the offender to pay a victim for loss of or damage to property caused by the crime or that requires the return of the property to its owner. Once made, an order for restitution can be enforced by the victim as if it were a civil judgment (see Restitution )
  • The prohibition from driving may be ordered for certain driving offences.
  • An offender may be prevented from owning or being in possession of a firearm in some cases and to surrender any firearms they own or possess,
  • Offenders may be required to provide a DNA sample and/or register in the National Sex Offender Registry,

Victims may provide victim impact information to the court during sentencing and this will be taken into consideration by the judge. Sentences or other conditions, particularly relating to safety concerns and restitution requests, may be made in response to victim impact information.


Imprisonment (being sent to jail) is the most serious sentence under Canadian law. A life sentence is the most serious jail sentence and although offenders convicted of murder may eventually be released, they remain on parole and under supervision for the rest of their lives.

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