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The Severity of Crime IS the Biggest Factor Why Offenders go to Jail on a First Offence

Generally, the type and nature of the crime will have the most significant impact on why first time offenders go to jail. First time offenders that have no criminal record, no prior criminal history with the police and are facing charges for a relatively minor, non-violent crime are far less likely to receive jail time. But, there are still many reasons why they might.

The more severe and/or violent the crimes are more likely a first time offender will receive a jail sentence. If the perceived risk to the community outweighs the potential benefits of a prison alternative, jail time is likely.

As well, there are some offences that come with a mandatory sentence of imprisonment.

Types of Criminal Offences with Automatic Jail Time in Canada

First time offenders cannot just assume that they will automatically receive leniency with the court. Although they tend to face more favourable sentencing, there is always a possibility of imprisonment. As well, any conviction, even a summary conviction, will impact your personal life even if there is no jail time. There are four types of sentences with a mandatory jail term in Canada:

1. Mandatory Life Sentence or Mandatory Minimum Sentences

For crimes that carry a mandatory life sentence, the accused will face imprisonment if convicted. A life sentence in Canada is 25 years with the eligibility of parole at the very earliest at 10 years. This is true regardless of whether it is their first conviction. This applies to severe offences such as 1st-degree murder, 2nd-degree murder, and treason.

What distinguishes First Degree Murder from Second Degree Murder or Manslaughter?

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.

There are other mandatory minimum sentences in the criminal code that are not life sentences in Canada. For example, some firearm, impaired driving, and sexual assault related offences have mandatory minimum sentences with maximum sentences ranging from two years on the low end to a range of 10 years to 14 years on the high end.

2. Sentence Enhancements – Increase Sentences and Ensure Offenders See Jail Time

Sentence enhancements, or “specs”, can also result in mandatory prison sentences. This occurs where there is an enhancement to the charges. For mandatory imprisonment, the enhancement usually involves a firearm.

For example, consider assault charges. Sexual assault does not carry a mandatory prison sentence. However, when a weapon is used during that assault it has a minimum sentence of 5 years. There are also offences such as domestic assault that when the assault is against an intimate partner it is considered an aggravating factor that could lead to jail sentences. Having no convictions or prior criminal history for domestic violence on the other hand would be considered a mitigating factor.

It’s not uncommon for the Crown to leverage sentence enhancements in plea negotiations. They may offer to withdraw, stay, or dismiss specs in exchange for a guilty plea. This agreement may mean avoiding or reducing a jail term.

3. Repeat Offenders – Will See Jail for Repeat Convictions for Same Crimes

For a first time offence, these do not apply. However, a conviction can leave you vulnerable to mandatory prison sentencing if you face another conviction later. Getting the aid of a defence lawyer on your first offence can help prevent extra years imprisonment at a later date.

The most common repeat offences with mandatory prison sentences in Toronto are for DUI charges or possession of weapons without a licence, both often result in sentences even when the Crown proceeds by summary conviction.

4. Hybrid Sentences – Summary Conviction and Indictable Offences Matter

The type of offence determines the type of sentence. For a hybrid offence, the Crown decides whether to proceed as a summary conviction or as an indictable offence. There is no mandatory minimum sentencing for summary offences. However, for indictable offence convictions, particularly those involving firearms, may have minimum prison sentences. Indictable offences by there nature are treated more seriously when it comes to sentences and the potential to go to jail.

A Range of Consequences of a Conviction for First Time Offenders

If you receive a conviction on any offence, you will receive a criminal record. Having a criminal record will affect your future. While first-time offenders may experience some leniency they forfeit that courtesy after the first conviction, such as receiving a conditional sentence when a sentence is under two years. Any future offences will carry a higher likelihood of imprisonment and harsher charges.

As well, a criminal record will directly impact your professional life. If you spend time in prison you will likely lose your job. Without this income, you can lose your home and other assets. Once you have a record, finding work can be difficult. Some jobs do not allow people with a criminal record, and many employers have a prejudice against priors.

Your personal life can also change as a result of a conviction. You can lose certain liberties, face travel restrictions, and may even lose custody of children.

Hire An Expirenced Criminal Lawyer for a First Time Offence

The potential consequences of a conviction will impact your life. If there is a potential to go to jail it’s important to hire a criminal lawyer even if its a first-time offence, whether its a summary or indictable offence. An experienced lawyer will be able to people to navigate the criminal justice system and advocate on your behalf through out the process. Experienced counsel always want to ensure that first time offenders receive the best possible out come.

William Jaksa is an experienced Criminal Lawyer in Toronto with over 15 years of advocating for clients charged on a wide range of serious criminal offences. He understands that every client matters. That every result case matters. That every result matters. He wants the best possible outcome for his clients. Contact Jaksa today for a consultation.

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