Life Sentence in Canada: Understanding the Consequences





Life Sentence in Canada: Understanding the Consequences

A life sentence in Canada does not mean an individual will serve time in jail for the rest of their life. A judge can indicate the length of jail time without the possibility of parole, with the longest period being 25 years.

Factors That Affect Sentencing

Whether the defendant has entered into a plea agreement with the prosecution in exchange for a reduced sentence, or whether the defendant has provided information or assistance to the authorities during the investigation or prosecution of the case.
Refers to circumstances that reduce the defendant’s level of responsibility or moral culpability for the offence, such as acting under duress or because it was necessary to prevent greater harm.
Refers to evidence or arguments presented by both the prosecution and the defence that may affect the sentence, such as evidence of prior bad acts committed by the accused, or mitigating factors such as mental illness or addiction.
Refers to the defendant’s military, public service or other achievements relevant to the sentence.
Indicates the specific legislation, policies and case law in the jurisdiction where the offence has been committed that might affect the sentence, for example, mandatory minimums, sentencing guidelines or prevailing community attitudes towards punishment.
The extent to which the accused cooperated with law enforcement and other authorities in the investigation and prosecution of his own case can be a factor in sentencing.
The age of the defendant and any physical or mental health problems may be relevant to the court in determining an appropriate sentence – for example, an older defendant or one with a serious health problem may be sentenced more leniently.
The defendant’s role in the commission of the offence may have an impact on his or her sentence. A principal or co-conspirator may receive a more severe sentence than an accomplice or someone who had a minor role.
A defendant’s financial resources and ability to pay fines or other financial penalties may be taken into account in determining an appropriate sentence. The court may consider a defendant’s ability to pay restitution to the victim(s) and/or fines to the State.
Sentencing may be influenced by the aim of deterring the defendant and others from committing similar offences in the future; a harsh sentence may act as a deterrent, while a lenient sentence may not.
The safety and protection of the public is a key consideration in sentencing. A sentence may be increased for an offender who poses a significant threat to public safety to prevent him from committing further offences.
The defendant’s potential for rehabilitation, or ability to be successfully treated or trained so as not to offend again, may be taken into account in determining an appropriate sentence A defendant who appears likely to be successfully rehabilitated may be given a lighter sentence.
Sentencing guidelines and mandatory minimum sentences set by state or federal law may be a factor in the sentencing decision. The court must follow these guidelines and mandatory minimum sentences, although it may have some discretion in certain cases.
Aggravation is a factor in the offense or in the conduct of the offender which increases the penalty, whereas mitigation is a factor in the offense or conduct of the offender which reduces the penalty.
Public opinion and the views of judges or sentencers may influence the perception of the seriousness of a particular sentence.
The extent to which the defendant has assisted law enforcement or other authorities in investigating or prosecuting the offence may be considered as a sentencing factor.
Age, mental and physical health of an accused person are relevant to sentencing because they affect his or her ability to understand consequences of his or her actions and his or her ability to reform.
The role of the defendant in the commission of the offence may also be taken into consideration, with those who have played a leading or more active role often receiving a more severe sentence.
This factor relates to the specific details and events surrounding the offence that was committed, including the method used and any aggravating or mitigating circumstances.
This factor considers the defendant’s criminal history, including any previous convictions, and the defendant’s previous sentences.
This factor takes into account the defendant’s general background, including education, employment, family situation and any history of drug or alcohol abuse.
This factor considers whether the defendant shows remorse for the offence committed, including apologies or expressions of regret.
This assesses the physical, emotional and economic damage caused by the offence and the impact of the offence on the victims’ life.

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