The Canadian Justice System comprises constantly changing and expanding rules and regulations designed to protect and maintain order in society. When you break these rules and regulations, i.e., commit a crime, there are many forms of punishment that you can face if the court of law finds you guilty. Every punishment serves a purpose: deterrence from crime, protecting society, rehabilitation or retribution for victims.

Probation is one of the more lenient sentences in Canada. But what is probation? When is it issued? Does it involve any conditions? This article answers these and more questions on probation in Canada and outlines its most important elements.

What is Probation?

Probation is a rehabilitative sentencing tool that allows the court to release convicted individuals into the community instead of imprisonment or after serving a jail sentence. It aims to provide a second chance to persons guilty of certain crimes.

Probation comes with certain orders that one must comply with during the probationary period. The orders dictate what one can and cannot do. For example, the conditions may require you to stay away from a victim in assault cases, attend anger management classes and regularly report to your assigned probation officer.

Probation orders are designed to rehabilitate and reintegrate offenders into the community while still protecting the public. It’s also a way to deter convicted persons from reoffending and maintain good behaviour.

A probation order can last for a maximum of three years. If you break any of its conditions without a reasonable excuse, your probation officer can charge you with an offence; breach of probation.

When is Probation Issued?

Probation is one of the few sentences a court can impose in combination with other sentences. As stated above, probation can be issued as an alternative to a jail sentence or after serving a jail sentence. Let’s expound on this and look into other ways probation can be used.

  • Suspended Sentence

When the court convicts you of a crime, it may put off imposing a sentence and release you on probation orders. The conviction is recorded, and a provision for revoking probation is part of the conditions in case the offender breaches its terms. If your probation is revoked, the court can decide to impose a sentence.

Not that with a suspended sentence, probation can be issued with another penalty. For example, probation and a fine.

  • Intermittent Sentence

In minor offences, the court may impose a sentence of 90 days or less. In such cases, the court may order that the sentence be served intermittently, i.e., in blocks. For example, the offender can spend weekends in jail and is released into the community during the week for specific purposes, such as work or school.

An intermittent sentence must be accompanied by a probation order, which governs the offender when they’re not in jail. The court may issue a second probation order if the intermittent sentence is followed by another probation period.

  • Conditional Sentence

If you’re sentenced to less than two years in prison, the court may order the sentence to be served in the community, with certain rules and regulations, instead of jail. A probationary period may follow immediately after completing a conditional sentence. Note that conditional sentences are only issued for less serious offences once the court determines that you’ll not endanger public safety.

  • Conditional Discharge

This occurs when a person is found guilty of an offence, but they’re discharged into the community without a conviction being registered. As the name suggests, the discharge is accompanied by certain conditions through a probation order. The accused must adhere to the conditions for the specified amount of time.

What Happens During Probation?

During probation, the accused:

  • Must adhere to all the orders given, failure to which the court will revoke probation, and criminal charges will follow.
  • will be required to keep peace and be on good behaviour
  • must present themselves before the court when required to do so by the court
  • report to their probation officer as required
  • may be required to perform certain hours of community service for not more than 18 months
  • notify the court or your probation officer about any major changes, such as a change in address or employment
  • may be required to provide samples of bodily substances for drug or alcohol analysis
  • may be required to remain within the court’s jurisdiction unless a written permit to go outside the jurisdiction is provided
  • may be required to refrain from certain things, such as:
    • communicating with any victims
    • possessing a weapon
    • using alcohol, drugs and other intoxicants

The above are just a few does and don’ts that may apply to you during probation. It’s important to involve an experienced criminal defence attorney in your case to ensure that you receive favourable conditions.

Who Is Eligible for Probation?

Probation is probably one of the best outcomes of a criminal case that ends up in a finding of guilt. But who is eligible for probation? Do all criminal cases have a probability of probation? Let’s find out.

To determine if you’re eligible for probation, the judge must consider the following:

  • age of the offender and other present circumstances
  • prior behaviour of the offender (any criminal history)
  • the criminal offence involved and the circumstances surrounding its commission

Also, to be eligible for probation, the offence you’re guilty of should not have a minimum punishment prescribed by law. In such cases, the court may suspend imposing a sentence and release you on a probation order. You may also qualify for probation if you receive a prison sentence of fewer than two years.

You’re ineligible for probation if:

  • you receive a jail sentence of more than two years
  • if the offence you’re guilty of has a minimum penalty prescribed by the law

Contact Jeffrey Reisman Law for All Probation Issues in Ontario

If you are facing issues related to your probation order, or are charged with breach of probation, do not hesitate to contact Jeffrey Reisman for legal guidance. Jeffrey is a skilled criminal defence lawyer with years of experience and success negotiating favourable probation conditions for his clients and representing them when faced with any probation issues.