Factors that increase, decrease criminal sentences

On Behalf of | Aug 2, 2021 | Sentencing

There are consequences when a person breaks the law in Canada. The type and degree of penalties depend on several details, ranging from who committed an offence and the nature of the crime to the presence of aggravating factors.

This last element of aggravating factors is one that can be confusing. And they sometimes catch people by surprise if they wind up arrested for assault, driving offences or fraud and learn that the presence of one or more means a harsher sentence.

Examples of aggravating factors

Aggravating factors are elements that increase the severity of a crime because of a perpetrator’s culpability or a victim’s vulnerability. 

Some examples of aggravating circumstances include:

  • An offence committed in the presence of a child
  • Targeting of vulnerable victims
  • Use of a weapon or violence
  • A crime motivated by hate
  • Having a previous record
  • Evidence of significant planning for the offense

Under these circumstances, a person could be at risk of longer incarceration penalties, higher fines and maximum sentencing or sentencing enhancements.

What about mitigating factors?

Just as certain factors can increase a person’s risk of criminal penalties, some factors can lessen the severity of penalties a person is facing for a crime.

These are mitigating factors, and they can include:

  • Signs of remorse
  • Efforts to participate in rehabilitation or substance abuse programs 
  • Post-offence conduct
  • A person’s age, health, employment status and other personal details
  • Lack of motivation to cause harm
  • A person’s role in the offence

These circumstances could make the difference between whether the courts prosecute and the severity of a sentence.

Defending against all types of criminal charges

Because of how significantly mitigating and aggravating factors can affect a person’s sentence for a criminal offence in Ontario, it is crucial that they be properly presented as part of a defence. Your lawyer can work with you to address aggravating factors and highlight mitigating factors. 

This information can serve as a reminder that every criminal case is different, as is every individual who is facing charges. 

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