Area of Law: Criminal Law
Answer # 739
Penalties for criminal offencesRegion: Ontario Answer # 739
Penalties under the Criminal Code
The penalties for criminal offences are set out in the Criminal Code and vary widely depending on each specific offence.
For most minor offences, which in law are called summary conviction offences, the maximum punishment is a fine of $5,000 or two years less a day in prison, or both.
Certain offences, however, have different maximum terms of imprisonment when prosecuted summarily. These include:
- Assault causing bodily harm and Assault with a weapon – maximum 18 months
- Sexual assault – maximum 18 months
- Indecent exposure to person under 16 – maximum six months
For serious offences, which in law are called indictable offences, the maximum punishment can range anywhere from two years in prison to life in prison, depending on the offence.
Recent changes to the Criminal Code have reclassified indictable offences that are punishable by 10 years imprisonment or less so that they are now considered hybrid offences, meaning they can be treated as either a summary or an indictable offence.
For hybrid offences, the Crown prosecutor chooses whether the offence will be treated as a less serious summary conviction offence or a more serious indictable offence, depending on the circumstances of the case. The Crown’s decision on how to proceed is based on many factors, such as the seriousness of the alleged conduct and whether there are any previous convictions. The Crown will also take into consideration the type of sentence they intend to seek, given all the circumstances of the alleged offence and of the offender.
Offences with set minimum penalties
Some offences under the Criminal Code have minimum penalties, which means that the sentencing judge has no discretion to sentence below the set minimum.
Other factors that affect your penalty
Although the Criminal Code establishes a range of penalties, the Court will generally also look at your personal circumstances, such as whether this is your first offence and whether you are employed and have a family, when deciding your final penalty. The circumstances in which the offence was committed are also very important. You should have a lawyer assist you at your sentencing hearing.
If you have been charged with a crime, contact our preferred criminal defence experts, The Criminal Law Team .
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