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Common Legal Terms


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What is a Peace Bond?

Peace bonds are covered under Section 810 of the Criminal Code, or Common Law. It is common in Alberta to resolve minor domestic assault allegations, or other minor crimes of violence, with a peace bond. The Court has the authority to issue peace bonds under s. 810 of the Criminal Code.

The requirements are that an application can be made by—or on behalf of—any person (Person A) who has a reasonable fear that another person (Person B) will cause harm to him or her, their spouse, children, or property.

The Court can order Person B to be bound by a court order to keep the peace and be of good behavior, seek counselling for anger management or anything else, be supervised by the probation office, to have no contact with Person A—there are many possibilities.

It is also possible for the court to issue peace bonds under its common law authority which carries many of the same terms and obligations.

Breaching the terms of a peace bond is itself a criminal offence and carries a fine attached to it. As of July 2015, a conviction for breaching a peace bond carries a maximum sentence of up to four years in jail.

If the person bound by the peace bond abides by all of its conditions, then the peace bond does not result in a criminal conviction and is a good way of resolving minor crimes of violence.

What are Release Conditions?

Most people are arrested and released. They are not held in custody pre-trial. However, they may be placed under conditions that must be followed as part of being on bail, or on release conditions.

In domestic violence situations, release conditions such as no-contact with the complainant, or no-go to the residence are serious problems, as it means the accused person can’t go home, or see his or her children. Changing the release conditions can be done with the consent of the Crown or by a bail review.

What is an Emergency Protection Order?

It is common in domestic violence situations for the police to seek an Emergency Protection Order (EPO) in addition to any criminal charges. This not a criminal charge, but it does place the person under a court order to not have any contact with the complainant or other individuals. EPO’s are reviewed at the Court of Queen’s Bench and are completely separate from release conditions and criminal charges.

What is a Bail Review?

This is the review of a person’s release conditions at the Court of Queen’s Bench. It is typically only done when a person has been denied bail in Provincial Court and is making an appeal of that decision. Every accused person gets one shot at bail—it is best to take the best shot possible.

What is Victim Services?

These are civilian members of various police forces who assist victims of crime - mainly in domestic violence circumstances - with navigating the court system. The employees of Victim Services are the essential go-between for the Crown prosecutors and the complainants or victims of crime.

What happens in a Sentencing Hearing?

If a person pleads guilty or is found guilty at trial, the next thing that happens is a sentencing hearing. The purpose of a sentencing hearing is to determine what the appropriate outcome of a trial is. Sentencing is intended to protect society, encourage respect for the law, and keep our society safe, peaceful, and fair.

There are many possible sentencing outcomes, and they depend on the offence and the convicted individual.

The purposes of a sentencing trial are laid out in Section 718 of the Canadian Criminal Code:

  • Denunciation of the offence or the unlawful conduct.
  • Deterrence of the offender and other persons from committing offences in future.
  • Protection of the public.
  • Rehabilitation of the offender.
  • Reparation to victims or community.
  • Promotion of a sense of responsibility in the offender.

The judge must balance those purposes in the sentencing. The Crown and the accused are both allowed to call evidence and make submissions about what they think the sentence should be.

In the case of a guilty plea, the main effort is the sentencing hearing. Even if there is a trial, the sentencing hearing is often more important than the trial itself.

Click here for a video explanation on Sentencing Hearing

What are the types of Sentences?

Sentences are individual and depend on the convicted person’s circumstances as well as the offence.

There are several possible outcomes, and they may be combined: 

  1. absolute discharge,
  2. conditional discharge,
  3. suspended sentence and probation,
  4. restitution orders,
  5. fines,
  6. jail, or
  7. conditional sentence orders.

Click here for a video explanation on Types of Sentences

What is an Absolute Discharge?

The accused person is found guilty, but the judge decides to not punish them. The accused is convicted, but there is no fine or sentence.

The absolute discharge will be listed on the person’s criminal record, but only for one year. There is no permanent criminal record.

An absolute discharge is the minimum punishment the court can order.

Click here for a video explanation on Absolute Discharge

What is a Conditional Discharge?

The accused person is found guilty, but if they follow the conditions of their sentence, they will have no permanent criminal record. The accused is placed under conditions, such as probation, for a certain period. This means the accused has to follow certain conditions or rules.
If the accused meets all of the conditions for the entire period, then the accused is discharged and the court seeks no further punishment.

The conditional discharge will be listed on the person’s criminal record, but only for three years.

Conditional sentences are often used for less serious offences, and typically not for crimes of violence.

Click here for a video explanation on Conditional Discharge

What is a Suspended Sentence and what is Probation?

The court can suspend, or postpone, the passing of the sentence. In the meantime, they will put the convicted person on probation. There will be a probation order, and a supervising probation officer will be assigned.

The probation order describes the conditions to be met, such as:

  1. no possession of weapons,
  2. no alcohol consumption,
  3. completion of a drug or alcohol treatment program, or
  4. anger management training.

If the conditions are all met, and the probation period ends without problems, then there is no further sentence. The matter is over, though the accused does have a permanent criminal record.

However, if the probation is unsuccessful and the accused breaches any of the conditions, then they can be resentenced. This is uncommon.

Click here for a video explanation on Suspended Sentence and Probation

What are Restitution Orders?

A restitution order is where the accused is ordered to make amends to a victim or the community. For example, if a person is convicted of fraud, then they can be ordered to pay all the money back to the victim.

Restitution orders are not just for fraud cases, they can be made in any situation where there is any damage. If an accused broke someone’s window, they will have to pay to repair it.

This is a type of court order and must be obeyed, and there can be penalties for ignoring it.

Click here for a video explanation on Restitution Orders

What are Fines?

If there is a finding of guilt, fines are another type of punishment. Fines can be given on their own, or along with other types of sentences. For example, a conditional discharge can also include a fine.

A fine has default days attached to it. Default days are the number of days the accused will spend in jail if they do not pay the fine.

For example, a person may be sentenced to a fine of $2000, where the default days may be 60 days in jail. The convicted person can either pay $2000, or spend 60 days in custody.

Click here for a video explanation on Fines

What is Jail?

Jail time is given for serious offences, or when an offence has a mandatory minimum sentence that includes jail. A sentence of less than 2 years is served in a provincial correctional facility. Any sentence longer than 2 years is served in a federal penitentiary.

Time spent in custody before sentencing counts towards any sentence of jail. The court accepts that remand is difficult, so each day spent in remand takes 1.5 days off of a person’s sentence.

For example, if an accused spent 30 days in custody before sentencing, and is then sentenced to 45 days of jail time, they don’t have to serve any more time. The 30 days in remand equals 45 days in a correctional facility.

People can get sentenced to time served. If an accused pleads guilty, the court can order that the time already spent in custody is enough punishment. No more jail time will be given and the convicted person will be released immediately.

Click here for a video explanation on Jail

What are Conditional Sentence Orders?

A conditional sentence is when jail time is allowed to be served in the community. With many types of criminal offences, an accused can apply to the court for permission to serve their time outside of jail. This is typically known as house arrest.

Several factors are considered before the application is granted (see Section 742 of the Canadian Criminal Code).

House arrest is not granted for crimes of violence, nor crimes that have a mandatory minimum sentence. For other types of crimes, jail sentences of up to 2 years may be eligible to be served as house arrest.

Click here for a video explanation on Conditional Sentence Orders

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