Keeping people out of jail for the first time is instrumental in helping them avoid repeat incarcerations. Yet, statistically, most convicted offenders have at least one prior conviction. In fact, nearly 75 percent of offenders have multiple prior convictions.
According to a study conducted by Statistics Canada and the University of Waterloo, chronic offenders account for a majority of “court-related activity”. The statistics revealed that repeat offenders who were sent to court for two to four incidents accounted for about 29 percent of the 59,000 offenders in the study. Chronic offenders who were sent to court for five or more offences comprised 16 percent of the group, yet they were responsible for 58 percent of total court referrals.
Many repeat offenders suffer from mental illness or addiction problems. Therefore, the repeat crimes are often committed as a means to pay for a drug or alcohol problem. Many professionals feel these types of criminals should be treated outside of the criminal system and not be reduced to a jail sentence. Although there are mental-health treatment programs within the system, they are not enough to produce a permanent change.
In 1995, the Criminal Code was amended to clarify the purpose of sentencing. It is a great reminder for everyone involved in the criminal system, legal counsel, and offenders alike.
Section 718 states:
- The fundamental purpose of sentencing is to contribute, along with crime prevention initiatives, to respect for the law and the maintenance of a just, peaceful and safe society by imposing just sanctions that have one or more of the following objectives:
- to denounce unlawful conduct;
- to deter the offender and other persons from committing offences;
- to separate offenders from society, where necessary;
- to assist in rehabilitating offenders;
- to provide reparations for harm done to victims or the community; and
- to promote a sense of responsibility in offenders, and acknowledgment of the harm done to victims and to the community. (1995, c. 22, s.6).
The purpose of sentencing must be kept in mind while developing a defensible case.
What about the Mandatory Sentences of Imprisonment?
The mandatory sentences outlined below require that criminals serve a predetermined amount of jail time for 29 serious and violent offences. Currently, judges are not provided with the opportunity to use discretion and rule outside of these sentences. This puts pressure on defence attorneys to develop the strongest case imaginable.
It is not clear as to whether this mandatory sentence program will continue to be used in the future, as it continues to be evaluated. Mandatory sentences often lead to more trials, appeals and overcrowded prisons, but for now, it is the law.
Currently, the Canadian Department of Justice outlines the mandatory sentences within the four primary categories as follows:
1st: Life sentence for treason, first-degree murder and second-degree murder.
2nd: This is the largest category of the four, and consists of 16 charges, primarily comprised of firearms offences.
3rd: This category specifically addresses repeat offenders and applies to those who have been convicted at least once before for the same offence. There are seven offences listed in this category and include driving while impaired, betting, and possession of unauthorized weapons.
4th: This is the “hybrid” offence category. Hybrid offences are crimes prosecutors decide to prosecute as summary or indictable offences. (Summary offences are considered petty crimes, compared to indictable offences.)
What you Can Expect if You are a Repeat Offender
If you have been previously incarcerated and released on parole, you have been given strict conditions upon which you maintained your freedom. If you have completed day parole, reached permanent parole and then committed an offence, there is still hope.
Although repeat and chronic offenders do not generally get off easily, when they are represented by criminal attorneys who are experienced in identifying the best defence, there is a chance for acquittal. The mandatory sentences of imprisonment can be a giant hurdle for an inexperienced attorney to overcome.
There are post-incarceration programs that exist to encourage offenders from repeating any/all criminal activities. Joining one or more is highly recommended as a demonstration of the desire and ability to work at rehabilitation.
For example, in Surrey, B.C., there is a partnership between youth probation officers and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) that is intended to keep young offenders out of trouble. The purpose of the program is to support compliance with court-ordered conditions and help them create a different future.
There are also drug treatment programs that can have a great impact on those who are trying to change the course of their lives. Each inmate experiences a different set of challenges once they are released and there is a growing list of organizations that can help overcome many of those challenges.
Sicotte & Sandhu Can Help
While it is more challenging to help a repeat offender, our experienced attorneys are highly proficient at finding the most effective defence. If you are being charged with a criminal offence and you are a repeat offender, our criminal attorneys can help.
Call us today at (604) 585-8898 for a free consultation or contact us here.