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Sunday, February 25, 2024

Criminal Sentencing Guidelines in Canada: An Overview

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Criminal sentencing is the judicial process of determining the punishment for a person who has been found guilty of a crime. And criminal defence lawyers handle these cases.

It involves the judge deciding the appropriate sentence for the offence committed.

Besides, they consider various factors, such as:

  • The nature of the crime
  • The defendant’s criminal history
  • & Any aggravating or mitigating circumstances.

Anyway, the following are the general steps in the criminal sentencing process:

Investigation & Arrest

In an Investigation, law enforcement gathers evidence to determine the following:

  • Whether a crime has been committed
  • Who may have committed it?

This can involve interviewing witnesses, collecting physical evidence, and analysing data. The goal of the investigation is to build a case against a suspect and gather enough evidence to make an arrest.

The arrest means taking a person into police custody to charge them for a crime. A law enforcement officer can arrest if they believe a person has committed a crime.

Bail Hearing

It’s a court proceeding after a person has been arrested and charged with a crime.

During a bail hearing, a judge considers whether to release the defendant from custody before trial.

The bail hearing is necessary to determine the following:

  • Will the defendant pose a risk or a danger to the community?
  • Should they be released from custody on certain conditions?

The judge considers several factors when making a bail determination, including:

  • Defendant’s criminal history
  • The seriousness of the charges
  • How strong is the evidence against the defendant?
  • & Defendant’s ties to the community

Plea Bargaining

This rule lets a defendant negotiate a plea agreement with the prosecution. This happens when you want to reduce sentences.

Additionally, in a plea bargain, with the help of a lawyer, you can plead guilty and ask for a lesser charge.

Note that plea bargaining can occur at any stage of the criminal justice process. That is from before the trial to after a conviction.


In this stage, a judge or jury hears evidence and determines the guilt or innocence of a defendant.

During a trial, the prosecution presents evidence and testimony to support its case. So,  the defence can cross-examine witnesses and present its own evidence.


A verdict is a decision given by a jury or a judge in a criminal trial. In this stage, the judge determines the guilt or innocence of the defendant.

The verdict is the final determination of the defendant’s legal liability for the crime they are charged. As you have learned earlier, it depends on the evidence presented at trial.

Let’s say you are found guilty, so the verdict will result in a conviction. And they can have significant consequences, including criminal penalties such as:

  • Fines
  • Imprisonment
  • or Probation

If the person is found not guilty, they will be declared free. Besides, they cannot be on trial again for the same offence.

Presentence Investigation

A presentence investigation (PSI) is a comprehensive report. And a probation or parole officer makes the report before sentencing a defendant.

The report’s purpose is to provide the court with information that may help determine the appropriate sentence for the defendant.

Sentencing Hearing

During a sentencing hearing, the judge considers information related to the crime, like—the defendant’s criminal history and other factors relevant to the case, such as the defendant’s:

  • History
  • Family circumstances
  • & Impact of a crime on a victim

The judge also considers arguments and recommendations from the prosecution and defence counsel. Also, if there are any other relevant parties, such as the presentence investigator, they can talk too.

Sentence Imposition

In this stage, a judge pronounces the sentence for a defendant because they have been found guilty of a crime.

Typically, this is done at a sentencing hearing after the judge has considered information related to the crime, the defendant’s background and criminal history, and other relevant factors.

But you can still make an appeal if it applies to your case.

The sentence imposed by the judge is the final step in the criminal sentencing process and determines the punishment that the defendant will receive for their crime.

The sentence may include a combination of penalties, such as:

  • Imprisonment
  • Fines
  • Community service
  • Probation
  • or Rehabilitation


It’s a request made to a higher court to review and potentially reverse a lower court’s decision, including the sentence imposed.

The prosecution or the defence can file for an appeal. And must be based on valid grounds such as:

  • A violation of the defendant’s constitutional rights,
  • An error in applying the law, or an excessively harsh or lenient sentence

To Conclude

Criminal sentencing is the process by which a court determines the punishment for a person who has been convicted of a crime. The purpose of criminal sentencing is to hold the offender accountable for their actions, protect society, and provide an opportunity for rehabilitation and reform.

In most jurisdictions, there is a range of possible sentences for each crime, and the judge can impose a sentence within that range. And a criminal defence lawyer can play a crucial role in negotiating a bargain or advocating a lighter sentence.

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