When someone is charged with a criminal offence, such as a domestic assault, the Crown will provide the accused, or his/her lawyer, with their position on resolution. This will entail which charge(s) they would like the accused to plead to along with the sentence they will be asking the Judge to impose. Defence lawyers will speak to the Crown and attempt to arrange a better deal for their client. Oftentimes a deal with be working out that is "joint" meaning that the Crown and Defence are asking for the same sentence. This joint position, however, is not guaranteed as the presiding judge always has the power to disagree with the joint position and sentence higher or lower if he/she sees fit. That being said, there are steps that a judge must take before disagreeing with a joint position, and these steps should provide the accused with some comfort in knowing that the judge will likely follow the joint position.
In many cases, an offender's main concern when being sentenced is whether he/she will have to go to jail. However, justices have other tools at their disposal when considering what an appropriate sentence might be.
Diversion programs are an alternative to prosecution. It is recognition by the Crown that not all offences should be prosecuted, and that some form of community service may more properly offset the harm done to the community. Under a diversion program, minor criminal charges, such as certain thefts, are resolved by diverting them out of the court process. In Ottawa it is called the Direct Accountability Program and is run by the Elizabeth Fry Society ('E-Fry'). In order to be eligible there are a number of preconditions that must be met: you must be 18 years or older, the charges must be minor in nature, you must accept responsibility for your offence(s), the Crown must screen you into the program and then the Community Justice Worker at E-Fry must find you appropriate for the program.
The human condition is such that even a person of good character could make a mistake and commit a criminal offence. In some cases there is no possibility of an acquittal or having the charge withdrawn and a finding of guilt may be inevitable. The next step is sentencing. However, their future need not be ruined as a result of this mistake. Merely because a person pleads guilty or is found guilty after trial does not mean the person must have a record of criminal conviction.