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Conditional Sentence Order in Canada Explained

According to our criminal lawyer Calgary, a conditional sentence is a criminal penalty requiring the convicted offender to serve their sentence outside the jail and meet specific conditions during their sentence. In other words, it’s considered a house arrest.

The courts often impose a conditional sentence order (CSO) for certain offenders to spend part or all of their sentencing term at home. It is essential to understand that CSO is still a criminal penalty. Like those who must serve their time behind bars, receiving a CSO means the conviction will appear on a criminal record.

What Is a Conditional Sentence in Canada?

A conditional sentence is a criminal sentence served within the community. In Canada, imprisonment should be a last resort in sentencing a criminal offender. A sentence of imprisonment is warranted when the offence is serious, when there are aggravating factors and when other sentencing options are not fit and proper.

CSOs require convicted individuals to follow the rules provided by the court, such as being under house arrest, reporting to a supervisor, and observing curfews. Someone with a substance abuse disorder might spend their time under house arrest at a treatment facility. The goal is to rehabilitate them back into society.

Judges can also impose conditions, requiring the convicted person to:

  • Give the DNA National Data Bank a sample of DNA
  • Follow a no-contact order regarding a specific person or place
  • Pay restitution to victims of the crime
  • Refrain from possessing a firearm or another type of weapon

A CSO requires house arrest 24 hours a day. That means you cannot leave your home unless you’re doing so for exceptions specifically included in your CSO, such as:

  • School
  • Medical and professional appointments
  • Work
  • Reporting to probation
  • Religious services
  • Shopping for necessary items, such as medical supplies and food

Eligibility for a CSO in Canada

According to the conditional sentence order criminal code, if the court convicts someone of an offence and imposes a prison sentence of fewer than two years, an order for serving a sentence in the community for purposes of supervising the offender is permitted if:

  • 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 purposes and principles of sentence set out in the applicable sentencing sections of the Criminal Code
  • The offence is not an offence punishable by a minimum term of imprisonment
  • The offence is not an offence under section 239 (attempt to commit murder) torture or advocating for genocide
  • The offence is not a terrorism or criminal organization offence prosecuted by indictment where the maximum term of imprisonment is 10 years or more

Bill C-5 was recently enacted by Parliament which reformed Conditional Sentence Order eligibility. One reason for the reform was to ensure that sentencing judges had options and tools available because sentencing is not a “one size fits all”. Parliament ensured that CSOs would not be available for serious offences such as advocating for genocide, torture and attempted murder. Criminal organization offences were also carved out of the reform.

Penalties for a Conditional Sentence Order Breach

A common assumption about breaching a CSO is the court will require the remainder of the sentence to be served in jail. However, a judge can choose from multiple options if they determine you breached a CSO, such as:

  • No action;
  • Terminate the CSO and commit the offender to custody until the end of the sentence;
  • Suspend the CSO and direct the offender to serve a portion of the unexpired sentence in custody and the CSO to resume upon the offender’s release from custody with or without changes to the option conditions; or
  • Change the optional conditions.

The judge can’t increase your sentence beyond the duration remaining in your CSO. Sometimes, the court will include specific circumstances as time served. For example, the judge may decide you have already served part of your remaining sentence if a delay existed between the date the warrant was issued and the date of its execution.

A judge may also award time served in exceptional cases and in the interests of justice. That means the judge will consider the severity of the breach, whether you met the conditions of your CSO during the suspension period, and any undue hardships you suffered.

Contact an Experienced Calgary Criminal Lawyer

A CSO criminal sentence is a favorable alternative to serving time in prison. You should retain a criminal lawyer from Alberta Legal to determine whether you qualify for a conditional sentence. We could create a strategy to argue your case before a judge and convince them that imprisonment isn’t necessary.

At Alberta Legal, we advocate for our clients and fight to protect their rights. If you were arrested for or charged with a criminal offence in Calgary, do not hesitate to call or contact us online for a free consultation to learn more about your legal options. We can represent you during any stage of criminal proceedings, from an initial arrest to sentencing and appeals.

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