Sentencing Options for Criminal Cases in Canada

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Sentencing Options for Criminal Cases in Canada


The infographic below briefly outlines some of the sentencing dispositions available to Canadian courts when considering the appropriate punishment after an individual is convicted, by way of guilty plea or being found guilty by judge or jury.
The following sentences are considered: 1) absolute & conditional discharges 2) suspended sentence 3) probation 4) restitution 5) fines 6) conditional sentence 7) intermittent imprisonment 8) imprisonment 9) long term offender 10) dangerous offender 11) ancillary orders (DNA, Driving Ban, Weapons Ban, SOIRA, Forfeiture, Victim Fine Surcharge)
Before an offender can be sentenced, the sentencing judge must give consideration to wide variety of factors which are guided by the purposes and principles of sentencing as set out in the legislation.


Purpose of Sentencing

Section 718 of the Criminal Code sets out the purposes of sentencing:
  • Denunciation
  • Deterrence
  • Separation of offenders
  • Rehabilitation
  • Reparation
  • Promotion of responsibility


Sentencing Principles

Sections 718.1 and 718.2 of the Criminal Code sets a number of sentencing principles :
  • The sentence must be proportionate to the nature of the offence.
  • The sentence must be reduced or increased depending on the mitigating and aggravating factors (discussed more below).
  • The sentence must be similar to sentences imposed on similar offenders for similar offences in similar circumstances.
  • If the sentence is consecutive, it must not be unduly long or harsh.
  • An offender should not be deprived of their liberty if less restrictive sanctions are appropriate.


Aggravating factors are found both in section 718.2 of the Criminal Code and in common law, and will be taken into consideration for offenders that attract harsher punishments due to the nature of the offence.  Such factors may include, but are not limited to:
  • Motivation due to bias, prejudice, or hate
  • Domestic violence
  • Abuse of person under 18 years old
  • Breach of trust or authority
  • Offence was committed for the benefit of, at the direction of, or in association with a criminal organization
  • Terrorism offences
  • Whether victim was a vulnerable person (children, elderly, etc.)



sentencing options in criminal cases


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