Facing criminal charges is a trying time for anyone. There is a lot of pressure and a lot to consider, but the biggest concern is almost always the outcome – namely, “am I going to jail?”
In this article, we help outline the factors that influence whether or not your criminal offence is likely to result in jail time. Although this piece can help as a guide, the best bet for understanding your options and their potential outcomes is to schedule a consultation with a criminal defence lawyer.
Likelihood of Conviction
You will not receive a prison sentence unless there is a conviction. Of course, not every conviction results in jail time, it depends on the offence and the Judge’s discretion.
While a criminal lawyer cannot guarantee a result, they can help determine how strong of a defence you can build, as well as providing a better sense of the potential outcomes. This guidance can help you understand if a conviction is a serious possibility, and whether it may lead to incarceration.
The Offence & Influencing Factors
In Canada, only a few offences carry mandatory sentences of imprisonment. These offences are broken into four categories:
- The first type includes mandatory life sentences. It includes treason, first-degree murder, and second-degree murder.
- The second type mostly consists of firearm offences.
- Mandatory minimums for repeat offenders make up the third category.
- Hybrid offences are the final category. If the Crown pursues a summary offence, there is no minimum. If they proceed by way of indictment, a conviction may involve jail time.
Outside of the specific categories listed above, the goal is generally to avoid sentencing that leads to imprisonment, unless it risks the safety of the victim, accused, or committee. Where there is no mandatory charge, the Judge uses their discretion, based on specific factors of the individual and the incident to determine the sentence.
Nature/Severity of the Crime
The more severe the crime, and the greater the risk to public safety, the greater the likelihood of jail time. For example, shoplifting is unlikely to lead to jail time. Whereas violent crimes present a greater threat to the community, as such, jail time is more likely if convicted on these offences.
Aggravating factors essentially make an offence appear more severe in the eyes of the Court and/or the general public. These factors can be related to the individual, such as having a past criminal record or abusing a position of authority. They can also pertain to the specifics of the offence as well, such as involvement in/of a criminal organization or planning the act in advance. As well, some types of offences, such as hate crimes and domestic abuse, may be viewed as aggravating factors.
Mitigating factors are the inverse of aggravating. Instead of increasing the severity of the offence and sentencing, they can reduce them. A Judge relates mitigating factors to each individual, the nature of their offence, and the specific circumstances.
Some mitigating factors include age, character, mental health, remorse, and desperation – stealing due to real/perceived need is treated less severely than theft for greed or profit.
Consult A Toronto Criminal Defence Lawyer
William Jaksa is an experienced criminal defence lawyer in Toronto. If you or a loved one are facing criminal charges, look to William Jaksa for guidance. He will help you understand your charges, your options, and the potential outcomes.
Get in touch today to schedule your consultation.