The rules concerning probation and parole in Ontario are designed to make the justice system more effective.

Probation and parole are different methods employed to protect society while encouraging the rehabilitation of offenders without the need to over-crowd the prison system.

Anyone placed on probation or parole must understand the rules, their obligations and what can happen if they fail to comply with the conditions.

One of our experienced criminal defence lawyers can help if you are facing a situation involving probation or parole in Ottawa…

What is parole?

Parole is a type of conditional early release from prison, allowing some convicted offenders to serve the remainder of their sentences in the community. This provides individuals with the opportunity to reintegrate into society under the supervision of a parole officer.

Whether an offender is released on parole is at the discretion of the Parole Board of Canada under the rules of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act. The most important consideration for the Parole Board is the risk that the offender could pose to the community.

Provided the offender meets the conditions of parole (such as not reoffending, not owning/possessing a weapon and reporting to a parole officer) he/she can serve the remainder of the sentence out of prison.

What are the main types of early release in Ontario?

Prisoners in Canada may be released from prison early in the following circumstances:

Not strictly considered “parole”. An offender is released for a certain number of hours each month (escorted or unescorted by a police officer).

The least restrictive early release, where the offender can return home indefinitely and serve the remainder of their sentence in the community under appropriate supervision (regularly reporting to a parole officer).

Prisoners can spend time in the community during daytime hours only and must return to prison or a supervised halfway house each night.

An automatic right for the prisoner after serving two-thirds of a prison sentence. This is not available for offenders who are serving life or an indeterminate sentence and conditions of the release may or may not apply.

What is probation and when is it used?

Unlike with parole, an offender placed on probation may never set foot inside a prison. It is generally considered one of the best possible outcomes of a criminal case that ends up in a finding of guilt.

Probation is a rehabilitative sentencing measure that provides a “second chance” to offenders, allowing the Ontario justice system to release convicted individuals into the community rather than imposing a jail sentence. This is intended to rehabilitate rather than simply punish an offender — while still protecting the public.

This option is not available for all offences and, as with parole, a series of conditions are usually attached to probation orders. These conditions may require the individual to avoid certain people or places, attend mandatory classes and report regularly to a probation officer.

As well as providing an alternative option to a jail sentence, probation can be imposed in combination with other sentences, such as fines.

Sentencing options may include the following in Ontario:

  • Suspended sentence: if you’re convicted of a crime, you may be released on probation rather than going to jail.
  • Intermittent sentence: for a minor offence, a sentence of 90 days or less may be imposed and it may be served intermittently, e.g., weekends are spent in jail but the offender is free to go to school or work during the week.
  • Conditional sentence: where a sentence for a non-serious crime (under two years’ jail time) is served in the community under certain rules and regulations.
  • Conditional discharge: a person is found guilty but discharged into the community (with conditions attached) without a conviction being registered.

Who is eligible for probation in Ontario?

Eligibility for probation may be an option for the judge in a criminal case in Ontario but the following factors are first considered:

  • The age of the offender
  • Other present circumstances of the offender
  • Prior behaviour of the offender (i.e., criminal history)
  • The type of offence committed and the circumstances surrounding it

Anyone convicted of an offence that has a minimum punishment prescribed by law is ineligible for probation as is anyone convicted of a crime with a jail sentence of more than two years.

The court may suspend imposing a sentence and release you on a probation order if you receive a prison sentence of fewer than two years.

What are conditions of probation?

An individual who is released on probation will be generally free to study, work and mix in the community but must follow the conditions of their probation.

These terms usually include some (or all) of the following:

  • Adhering to all orders
  • Keeping the peace and remaining on good behaviour
  • Appearing before the court when required to do so
  • Reporting to a probation officer as required
  • Performing community service for up to 18 months (if required to do so)
  • Notifying the court or probation officer about changes in address, employment or other major changes
  • Providing samples of bodily substances for drug or alcohol analysis
  • Remaining within the court’s jurisdiction (unless a written permit to go outside is provided)
  • Refraining from communicating with victims, possessing weapons or using alcohol/drugs, as required

Other conditions and restrictions may apply, depending on the probation order.

How long do probation orders last?

The maximum length of a probation order in Ontario is three years. Additionally, the following restrictions apply to probation orders:

  • Orders may run concurrently but cannot run consecutive to another order
  • Orders end only on the expiry date unless the court revokes or terminates the order early or shortens the term of probation (which the court has the power to do)

What happens if you break probation rules?

If the conditions of probation are broken without a reasonable explanation, your probation officer may charge you with a breach of probation.

This is an additional criminal offence that is punishable either on summary conviction (with a maximum penalty of up to 18 months in jail and/or a fine not exceeding $5,000) or as an indictable offence (with a maximum penalty of up to four years in prison).

If you’re on probation on a suspended sentence or conditional discharge and are convicted of a subsequent offence during your probation period, the probation may be revoked.

In such circumstances, the court may:

  • Impose any sentence that could have been imposed had the passing of the sentence not been suspended.
  • Revoke the discharge, convict you on the original charge and impose any sentence that could have been imposed had the discharge not been granted initially.

Do you need help with probation or parole in Ottawa?

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