What is a conditional sentence order in Ontario?

A Conditional Sentence Order or “house arrest” has some similarities with probation in that the sentence is served in the community.

Under the terms of the CSO, the subject of the order will usually be under 24-hour house arrest for up to 24 months rather than going to jail. This means staying at home at all times for the duration of the order.

Often, this is considered a favourable outcome for a person found guilty of a crime — but it is not a “get out of jail free card”. Failure to abide by the conditions imposed by the CSO can lead to immediate jail time.

Are there any exceptions to 24-hour house arrest?

A convicted person is expected to stay at home all day and night except when permitted to leave the home for a specific purpose by the judge.

A judge may declare exceptions to the 24-hour house arrest conditions for the following limited types of activities:

  • Attending work
  • Studying at school or college
  • Attending a religious service
  • Attending a medical appointment
  • Reporting to probation
  • Shopping for necessities

Who is eligible for a conditional sentence order?

Under section 742 of the Criminal Code of Canada, you are only eligible for a conditional sentence order if each of the following circumstances applies:

  • No minimum sentence applies to the offence
  • The appropriate sentence for the offence doesn’t exceed two years
  • The offence is not specifically disqualified from receiving a CSO in the Criminal Code
  • The offence is not classified as a “serious personal injury offence”
  • There is no danger of the offender re-offending

Offences that are specifically excluded from eligibility for a CSO include sexual assault, kidnapping, motor vehicle theft, theft over $5000, arson for a fraudulent purpose, breaking and entering a place other than a house, trafficking persons, and criminal harassment.

Specific conditions applying to a CSO

The Criminal Code outlines the eligibility conditions relating to a conditional sentence order more specifically as follows:

742.1 If a person is convicted of an offence and the court imposes a sentence of imprisonment of less than two years, the court may, for the purpose of supervising the offender’s behaviour in the community, order that the offender serve the sentence in the community, subject to the conditions imposed under section 742.3, if

  • (a)the court is satisfied that the service of the sentence in the community would not endanger the safety of the community and would be consistent with the fundamental purpose and principles of sentencing set out in sections 718 to 718.2;
  • (b)the offence is not an offence punishable by a minimum term of imprisonment;
  • (c)the offence is not an offence, prosecuted by way of indictment, for which the maximum term of imprisonment is 14 years or life;
  • (d)the offence is not a terrorism offence, or a criminal organization offence, prosecuted by way of indictment, for which the maximum term of imprisonment is 10 years or more;
  • (e)the offence is not an offence, prosecuted by way of indictment, for which the maximum term of imprisonment is 10 years, that
    • (i)resulted in bodily harm,
    • (ii)involved the import, export, trafficking, or production of drugs, or
    • (iii) involved the use of a weapon;

What are mandatory and optional conditions under a CSO?

There are sets of mandatory and optional conditions that a judge can impose under the terms of a conditional sentence order.

The mandatory conditions are as follows:

  • Keep the peace and be of good behaviour
  • Appear before the court when required to do so by the court
  • Report to a supervisor
  • Remain within the jurisdiction of the court unless written permission has been received
  • Notify the court of any change of name, address, employment, or occupation.

Judges may also order any condition in the interests of protecting the public, denouncing criminal behaviour, or deterring the offender (or others) from committing additional crimes.

Other conditions may also be issued to provide reparations for harm done to victims or the community, assist in the rehabilitation of the offender and promote a sense of responsibility for offenders.

Some additional conditions typically include abstaining from consuming drugs or alcohol, communicating directly or indirectly with the victim or witness, performing community service, and owning or possessing any firearms/dangerous weapons.

How do I get a conditional sentence order in Ontario?

Providing the offender meets the eligibility criteria, whether to award a conditional sentence order comes down to the judge’s discretion.

The Ontario legal system is generally keen to reduce the pressures on the prison system here so if that’s the case, the judge will award the CSO and decide on the conditions to impose on the offender.

What happens if the terms of the CSO are breached?

One of the main differences between a conditional sentence order and probation is what happens if the terms of the order are breached.

If an offender breaches the terms of a CSO, the judge will consider jail for the remainder of the CSO term.

For instance, if you receive a 24-month CSO and, after one year, are found to have left your house without specific permission, the judge can send you to jail directly for the remaining year of your term.

It’s not a certainty that the offender will be sent to jail but without a persuasive case made by a criminal defence lawyer, it becomes more likely.

Do you need help with a conditional sentence order in Ottawa?

To increase the chances of a positive outcome in your criminal defence matter, speak to a lawyer from Affordable Defence in Ottawa during a free consultation.