If you’ve been charged with a crime, the best way to protect your rights is to hire a criminal defence lawyer to assist you with your case.
Being accused of a crime is a frightening prospect. When you imagine a “criminal sentence” the first thing to come to mind is probable a prison sentence. The best option if you are charged with a crime is an acquittal or to have the charges withdrawn. However, even if you are found guilty, there are many penalties that are less severe than a prison term that can be imposed, some of which won’t result in a permanent criminal record.
Diversion is not a finding of guilt, so it is not exactly a “sentence” per se. Diversion is a program offered where an accused “takes responsibility” without admitting guilt. If all of the conditions of the diversion program are completed the crown will withdraw the charges. There are usually various requirements imposed upon entering a diversion program, some common terms may be community service, a letter of apology, attendance in therapy, etc. Diversion will not result in a criminal record.
An absolute discharge is not a conviction. If the court imposes an absolute discharge the charge should be removed from your criminal record after 1 year. This is typically reserved for the most minor of crimes and/or most sympathetic accused.
A conditional discharge is also not a conviction. After 3 years the charge should be removed from your criminal record. There are conditions attached to this type of ruling, often an accused will need to complete a probation program. You must complete the conditions in order to have the charge removed from your record.
When you are charged with a crime and the judge orders a fine as a stand-alone sentence, there will be no prison sentence. There will however be a criminal record. Failure to pay a fine, or not making regular payments could result in additional charges.
A suspended sentence is similar to a conditional discharge in that probation is typically imposed without a prison sentence, however unlike a conditional discharge there will be a criminal conviction on your record.
A conditional sentence is more commonly called “house arrest”. You will get a criminal record, but you will serve time in the community rather than in prison, usually with time away from home severely restricted. Occasionally the sentence may allow time away from the home to attend work or medical appointments, but this should be canvassed with the sentencing judge in court as it is not automatically attached to the sentence.
An intermittent sentence is a jail term served on the weekends. This is only available if the sentence is 90 days or less. A permanent criminal record will be imposed. This program is not available at all prison facilities.
A custodial sentence is a prison term. If the sentence is less than two years you will be sent to a provincial facility and if it is more than 2 years you will go to a federal facility. There are often options available for early release, but it will depend on the individual circumstances of the offender.
The prospect of a criminal record and a prison term are very frightening. Your best option for securing an acquittal or withdrawal of charges is to hire a criminal defence lawyer. Mehdi Au LLP has criminal lawyers on staff who can assist you in your time of need. Legal Aid Certificates are accepted.
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