|This page was last substantively updated or reviewed September 2023. (Rev. # 87234)|
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:
A Conditional Sentence Order (CSO) is a form of incarceration.
A CSO is not the same as probation. The former being punitive and rehabilitative while latter being only for rehabilitation.
The purpose of the conditional sentence is to reduce the reliance on incarceration as a sanction and increase restorative justice objectives.
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."
The restrictions on conditional sentences for offences with a maximum penalty of 14 years does not violate s. 12 of the Charter for being cruel and unusual punishment. However, in Ontario the unavailability of conditional sentences to aboriginal offenders for violates s. 7 of the Charter and is struck. 
- Appellate Review
The decision to order a conditional sentence is entitled to "considerable deference."
The conditional sentence option was introduced in 1996 as a "meaningful alternative for less serious and non-dangerous offenders".
R v LFW, 1997 CanLII 10868 (NL CA), Nfld. & PEIR 115(Nfld. C.A.), per Marshall JA
R v Oliver (E.M.), 1997 CanLII 14631 (NL CA), Nfld. & PEIR 210 (Nfld. C.A.), per Cameron JA
R v Quality (R.), 1997 CanLII 14660 (NL CA), Nfld. & PEIR 320 (Nfld. C.A.), per Gushue JA
R v JM, 1998 CanLII 18034 (NL CA), Nfld. & PEIR 38 (Nfld. C.A.), per Green JA
- Proulx, ibid., at para 127
R v Proulx, 2000 SCC 5 (CanLII),  1 SCR 61, per Lamer CJ, at para 127
R v Sharma, 2022 SCC 39 (CanLII), per Brown and Rowe JJ, at para 9
- Proulx, ibid., at para 127
- R v Neary, 2016 SKQB 218 (CanLII), per RS Smith J - related to drug trafficking offences
- R v Sharma, 2020 ONCA 478 (CanLII), 390 CCC (3d) 1, per Feldman JA
R v Peterson, 2005 CanLII 37972 (ON CA), 201 CCC (3d) 220, per Weiler JA, at para 58
R v Rage, 2018 ONCA 211 (CanLII), per curiam, at para 10 ("It is well established in the jurisprudence that a trial judge’s decision regarding the appropriateness of a conditional sentence is entitled to considerable deference")
Proulx, supra, at paras 14 to 21
The requirements for a conditional sentence are summarized as follows:
- the offence has no mandatory minimums
- the offence does not have a maximum penalty of 14 or life
- the offence does not have a maximum penalty of 10 years that
- is a terrorism offence, or a criminal organization offence,
- involves bodily harm,
- involves the import, export, trafficking or production of drugs, or
- involves the use of a weapon
- the offence is not enumerated in s. 742.1(f)
- the appropriate sentence is one of less than two years
- a sentence in the community would not endanger the safety of the community
- in consideration of the risk of the offender reoffending; and,
- in consideration of the gravity of the damage that could follow a re-offence.
- 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.”
A conditional sentence can be available to a person who is on parole.
The restrictions on conditional sentences for certain classes of offences does not violate s. 7 or 12 of the Charter.
- R v Proulx, 2000 SCC 5 (CanLII),  1 SCR 61, per Lamer CJ, at para 46 - citing the old test pre 2012 amendments
- Proulx, ibid., at para 102
- R v Harris, 2000 BCCA 599 (CanLII), per Ryan JA
- Proulx, supra, at para 127
- Proux, supra, at para 127
R v Barrons, 2017 NSSC 368 (CanLII), per Arnold J
R v DeYoung, 2017 NSCA 13 (CanLII), per Farrar JA
R v Sawh, 2016 ONSC 7797 (CanLII), per Garton J
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.
Less Than Two Years
Before a judge can impose a conditional sentence the judge must be satisfied that both prison and probation are not appropriate.
Where a penitentiary sentence "cannot be excluded", then a CSO cannot be imposed.
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.
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.
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."  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.
see R v Soldat, 2012 MBCA 39 (CanLII), 280 Man R (2d) 109, per M Monnin JA, at para 14
R v Eckert, 2006 MBCA 6 (CanLII), 201 Man R (2d) 175, per Steel JA
- see R v Knoblauch, 2000 SCC 58 (CanLII),  2 SCR 780, per Arbour J (5:4)
- Knoblauch, ibid., at para 27
R v Wright, 2011 ABCA 42 (CanLII), 502 AR 318, per McDonald JA, at para 12
see also R v Wilson, 2009 ABCA 257 (CanLII), 457 AR 373, per curiam at 37
R v Melvin, 2010 NSCA 5 (CanLII), 912 APR 235, per Bateman JA, at para 9
R v Viscomi, 2012 ABCA 135 (CanLII), 545 WAC 241, per curiam
R v AB, 2012 MBCA 25 (CanLII), 275 Man R (2d) 285, per Chartier JA
Compliance with the Principles and Purposes of Sentencing
- Child Sexual Offences
CSOs for child sexual offences will be "very rarely" appropriate absent "limited exceptional circumstances".
Conditional Sentence Breaches
Effect of Custody on Other Matters
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.
A change of address cannot be done merely be calling and leaving a voicemail message on the supervisor's machine.
There is no mechanism within the Code to permit a CSO to be transferred to a jurisdiction outside of Canada.