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When people are accused of a serious crime, their whole life changes in an instant. It is frightening knowing that you might be going to jail. It would be a difficult time for anyone. You will want the best criminal lawyer to help get you out of this mess unscathed. Turns out, finding the best criminal lawyer is much harder than it sounds.

In this article, we outline some the factors that influence whether or not your criminal charges will result in you seeing the inside of a jail cell. Although this article can help as a guide, the best course of action to help understanding your options and their potential outcomes is to schedule a consultation with a criminal defence lawyer.


You will not receive a prison sentence or go to jail unless there is a conviction. Of course, not every criminal conviction results in jail time, it depends on the offence and the Judge’s discretion when crafting an appropriate sentence.

Even the best criminal lawyer cannot guarantee a result, they can help determine how strong of a defence you have, as well as providing a better sense of the potential outcomes. The best lawyers can also help you put yourself in the best possible situation before a sentencing hearing. Their guidance can help you understand if a conviction is a serious possibility, and whether it may lead to you going behind bars.


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. There are some mandatory sentences when it comes to the possession and use of a firearm.
  • Mandatory minimums for repeat offenders make up the third category, especially if it involves any sexual related assault.
  • 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 Committed

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.

What does a Life Sentence in Canada really meaning? This article explains that what Life Sentence is and what it means for people that have received this sentence.

Aggravating Factors

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

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. That there is no prior criminal history and that this is a first offence.


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.

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