Conditional Sentences

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Introduction

A conditional sentence is a sentence of incarceration which is permitted to be served in the community under strict conditions, typically consisting of house arrest, for up to two years less a day.

The enabling provision states:

Imposing of conditional sentence
742.1 If a person is convicted of an offence and the court imposes a sentence of imprisonment of less than two years, the court may, for the purpose of supervising the offender’s behaviour in the community, order that the offender serve the sentence in the community, subject to the conditions imposed under section 742.3, if

(a) the court is satisfied that the service of the sentence in the community would not endanger the safety of the community and would be consistent with the fundamental purpose and principles of sentencing set out in sections 718 to 718.2;
(b) the offence is not an offence punishable by a minimum term of imprisonment;
(c) the offence is not an offence, prosecuted by way of indictment, for which the maximum term of imprisonment is 14 years or life;
(d) the offence is not a terrorism offence, or a criminal organization offence, prosecuted by way of indictment, for which the maximum term of imprisonment is 10 years or more;
(e) the offence is not an offence, prosecuted by way of indictment, for which the maximum term of imprisonment is 10 years, that
(i) resulted in bodily harm,
(ii) involved the import, export, trafficking or production of drugs, or
(iii) involved the use of a weapon; and
(f) the offence is not an offence, prosecuted by way of indictment, under any of the following provisions:
(i) section 144 (prison breach),
(ii) section 264 (criminal harassment),
(iii) section 271 (sexual assault),
(iv) section 279 (kidnapping),
(v) section 279.02 (trafficking in persons — material benefit),
(vi) section 281 (abduction of person under fourteen),
(vii) section 333.1 (motor vehicle theft),
(viii) paragraph 334(a) (theft over $5000),
(ix) paragraph 348(1)(e) (breaking and entering a place other than a dwelling-house),
(x) section 349 (being unlawfully in a dwelling-house), and
(xi) section 435 (arson for fraudulent purpose).

1992, c. 11, s. 16; 1995, c. 19, s. 38, c. 22, s. 6; 1997, c. 18, s. 107.1; 2007, c. 12, s. 1; 2012, c. 1, s. 34.

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A Conditional Sentence Order (CSO) is a form of incarceration.[1]

The purpose of the conditional sentence is to reduce the reliance on incarceration as a sanction and increase restorative justice objectives.[2]

A CSO is not the same as probation. The former being punitive and rehabilitative while latter being only for rehabilitation.[3]

CSOs are usually better at achieving "the restorative objectives of rehabilitation, reparations to the victim and the community, and promotion of a sense of responsibility in the offender and acknowledgment of the harm done to the victim and the community".[4]

Constitutionality
The restrictions on conditional sentences for offences with maximum penalty of 14 years does not violate s. 12 of the Charter for being cruel and unusual punishment.[5]

  1. R v L.F.W. 1997 CanLII 10868 (NL CA), (1997), 155 Nfld. & P.E.I.R. 115(Nfld. C.A.)
    R v Oliver (E.M.), 1997 CanLII 14631 (NL CA), (1997), 147 Nfld. & P.E.I.R. 210 (Nfld. C.A.)
    R v Quality (R.), 1997 CanLII 14660 (NL CA), (1998), 156 Nfld. & P.E.I.R. 320 (Nfld. C.A.)
    R v J.M. 1998 CanLII 18034 (NL CA), (1998), 160 Nfld. & P.E.I.R. 38 (Nfld. C.A.)
  2. R v Proulx, [2000] 1 SCR 61, 2000 SCC 5 (CanLII) at para 127
  3. Proulx, ibid. at para 127
  4. Proulx, ibid. at para 127
  5. R v Neary, 2016 SKQB 218 (CanLII) - related to drug trafficking offences

Statutory Exempt Offences Under s. 742.1(f)(i)

Offences enumerated under s. 742.1 that are entirely exempt from CSOs when prosecuted by indictment consist of:

See Offences by Penalty for a complete list of offences that would be subject to exemption due to maximum penalties of 10 (with bodily harm, weapons or drugs) or 14 years.

Eligibility

The requirements for a conditional sentence are summarized as follows:[1]

  1. the offence has no mandatory minimums
  2. the offence does not have a maximum penalty of 14 or life
  3. the offence does not have a maximum penalty of 10 years that
    1. is a terrorism offence, or a criminal organization offence,
    2. involves bodily harm,
    3. involves the import, export, trafficking or production of drugs, or
    4. involves the use of a weapon
  4. the offence is not enumerated in s. 742.1(f)
  5. the appropriate sentence is one of less than two years
  6. a sentence in the community would not endanger the safety of the community
    1. in consideration of the risk of the offender reoffending; and,
    2. in consideration of the gravity of the damage that could follow a re-offence.
  7. the appropriate sentence consistent with the fundamental purpose and principles of sentencing

A conditional sentence, being a period of incarceration, can satisfy the principles of denunciation and deterrence. However, there is a comparative leniency in a conditional sentence when compared “to a jail term of equivalent duration.”[2]

A conditional sentence can be available to a person who is on parole.[3]

There is no presumption for or against CSOs.[4] However, it is considered "likely more appropriate" where a "combination of both punitive and restorative objectives" are to be achieved.[5]


  1. R v Proulx, 2000 SCC 5 (CanLII) at para 46 - citing the old test pre 2012 amendments
  2. R v Proulx, 2000 SCC 61 (CanLII) at para 102
  3. R v Harris, 2000 BCCA 599 (CanLII)
  4. Proulx at para 127
  5. Proux at para 127

Mandatory Minimums

See also: Maximum and Minimum Sentences

Mandatory minimum offences are not eligible for a conditional sentence. The offences with minimums are identifiable by the presence of the minimum within the definition of the offence.

Safety of Community

The sentencing judge should undertake a "risk assessment" to determine if the offender is a risk to the safety to the community.[1]

Assessing risk to the community is divided into two dimensions: 1) the risk of re-offence and 2) the gravity of the danger in the event of a re-offence.[2]

Risk of re-offence should be considered in light of potential "conditions attached to the sentence". Where there is a risk to the community, the risk may be minimized by imposing "appropriate conditions in the sentence." [3] Thus, a risk is acceptable as long as it is containable within the sentence.

Previous non-compliance with court orders is a "weighty factor" against the availability of a conditional sentence. They can be evidence that the offender is unlikely to comply and the sentence will not likely have a deterrent or rehabilitative effect.[4]

  1. see R v Soldat, 2012 MBCA 39 (CanLII) at para 14; R v Eckert, 2006 MBCA 6 (CanLII)
  2. see R v Knoblauch, 2000 SCC 58 (CanLII), [2000] 2 SCR 780
  3. R v Knoblauch 2000 SCC 58 (CanLII) at para 27
  4. R v Wright, 2011 ABCA 42 (CanLII) at para 12
    see also R v Wilson 2009 ABCA 257 (CanLII) at 37
    R v Melvin, 2010 NSCA 5 (CanLII) at para 9
    R v Viscomi, 2012 ABCA 135 (CanLII) R v A.B., 2012 MBCA 25 (CanLII)

Procedure

Imposing Conditions

Conditional Sentence Breaches

Effect of Custody on Other Matters

If person imprisoned for new offence
742.7 (1) If an offender who is subject to a conditional sentence order is imprisoned as a result of a sentence imposed for another offence, whenever committed, the running of the conditional sentence order is suspended during the period of imprisonment for that other offence.
Breach of condition
(2) If an order is made under paragraph 742.6(9)(c) or (d) to commit an offender to custody, the custodial period ordered shall, unless the court considers that it would not be in the interests of justice, be served consecutively to any other period of imprisonment that the offender is serving when that order is made.
Multiple sentences
(3) If an offender is serving both a custodial period referred to in subsection (2) and any other period of imprisonment, the periods shall, for the purpose of section 743.1 and section 139 of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, be deemed to constitute one sentence of imprisonment.
Conditional sentence order resumes
(4) The running of any period of the conditional sentence order that is to be served in the community resumes upon the release of the offender from prison on parole, on statutory release, on earned remission, or at the expiration of the sentence.
1995, c. 22, s. 6; 1999, c. 5, s. 42; 2004, c. 12, s. 16(E).


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Sentence Variations

The Sentence Supervisor can recommend changes in the optional conditions of the Order where there is a change in circumstances. Notice of the proposed change must be provided to the court and counsel. It is generally understood that the changes should not be of a substantial nature that may change the purpose of the initial order. The application should not be initiated by the offender.[1]

Supervisor may propose changes to optional conditions
742.4 (1) Where an offender’s supervisor is of the opinion that a change in circumstances makes a change to the optional conditions desirable, the supervisor shall give written notification of the proposed change, and the reasons for it, to the offender, to the prosecutor and to the court.
Hearing
(2) Within seven days after receiving a notification referred to in subsection (1),

(a) the offender or the prosecutor may request the court to hold a hearing to consider the proposed change, or
(b) the court may, of its own initiative, order that a hearing be held to consider the proposed change,

and a hearing so requested or ordered shall be held within thirty days after the receipt by the court of the notification referred to in subsection (1).
Decision at hearing
(3) At a hearing held pursuant to subsection (2), the court

(a) shall approve or refuse to approve the proposed change; and
(b) may make any other change to the optional conditions that the court deems appropriate.

Where no hearing requested or ordered
(4) Where no request or order for a hearing is made within the time period stipulated in subsection (2), the proposed change takes effect fourteen days after the receipt by the court of the notification referred to in subsection (1), and the supervisor shall so notify the offender and file proof of that notification with the court.
Changes proposed by offender or prosecutor
(5) Subsections (1) and (3) apply, with such modifications as the circumstances require, in respect of a change proposed by the offender or the prosecutor to the optional conditions, and in all such cases a hearing must be held, and must be held within thirty days after the receipt by the court of the notification referred to in subsection (1).
Judge may act in chambers
(6) All the functions of the court under this section may be exercised in chambers.
1995, c. 22, s. 6; 1999, c. 5, s. 39.


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A change of address cannot be done merely be calling and leaving a voicemail message on the supervisors machine.[2]

There is no mechanism within the Code to permit a CSO to be transferred to a jurisdiction outside of Canada.[3]

  1. R v Kobsar, 2004 ABQB 817 (CanLII)
  2. R v Sullivan 2009 CanLII 59436 (NL PC)
  3. R v Goett, 2012 ABCA 215 (CanLII)

Transfer CSOs to different Provinces

Transfer of order
742.5 (1) Where an offender who is bound by a conditional sentence order becomes a resident of a territorial division, other than the territorial division where the order was made, on the application of a supervisor, the court that made the order may, subject to subsection (1.1), transfer the order to a court in that other territorial division that would, having regard to the mode of trial of the offender, have had jurisdiction to make the order in that other territorial division if the offender had been tried and convicted there of the offence in respect of which the order was made, and the order may thereafter be dealt with and enforced by the court to which it is so transferred in all respects as if that court had made the order.
Attorney General’s consent
(1.1) The transfer may be granted only with

(a) the consent of the Attorney General of the province in which the conditional sentence order was made, if the two territorial divisions are not in the same province; or
(b) the consent of the Attorney General of Canada, if the proceedings that led to the issuance of the conditional sentence order were instituted by or on behalf of the Attorney General of Canada.

Where court unable to act
(2) Where a court that has made a conditional sentence order or to which a conditional sentence order has been transferred pursuant to subsection (1) is for any reason unable to act, the powers of that court in relation to the conditional sentence order may be exercised by any other court that has equivalent jurisdiction in the same province.
1995, c. 22, s. 6; 1999, c. 5, s. 40.


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History