The possible outcome if you receive a suspended sentence

The verdict? You were found guilty and received a suspended sentence. That means you likely won't do jail time, but you're far from off the hook. Here's why.
If found guilty of a criminal charge, there are, of course, worse outcomes: You can wind up serving prison time, an intermittent sentence (for example, prison on weekends), a conditional sentence, also known as “house arrest,” or pay a hefty fine.

The possible outcome if you receive a suspended sentence

Discharge vs. suspended sentence

The best outcome for a guilty verdict would be an absolute discharge, in which there is a finding of guilty but no conviction is registered. You don’t have to report to a probation officer or apply for a pardon to have the charge removed from your record.

  • An absolute discharge will stay on your criminal record for one year after the date you received the discharge and then it is gone.
  • A conditional discharge, like the absolute one, has a finding of guilty with no conviction registered, but, as the name suggests, some conditions apply.
  • With a suspended sentence, you’re spared a prison sentence (at least with good behaviour) but you will have a criminal record and will need to apply for a pardon to have the conviction removed from your record.

On probation

If you have a suspended sentence or conditional discharge, you will be put on probation, according to a court order. Lasting no more than three years (most are one to two years), a probation order’s conditions will include:

  • Keeping the peace and behaving well.
  • Appearing in court when ordered.
  • Informing the probation officer about any change to your name, address, or work situation.

Other possible conditions

The probation order could include other conditions, such as:

  • Staying away from alcohol and drugs.
  • Going into counselling or rehabilitation.
  • Reporting to a parole officer.
  • Not possessing weapons.
  • Performing community service.
  • Staying away from and not communicating with certain persons.
  • Making restitution to victims.

If you don’t meet the conditions

If you don’t successfully comply with the conditions of the probation order, then consequences will ensue.

  • You may have your suspended sentence revoked and be penalized for your breach of probation, which in itself is a criminal offence.

Once a suspended sentence is revoked, the court that did the original sentencing may re-sentence you, and you could find yourself behind bars.

  • Double jeopardy doesn’t apply because a suspended sentence is not a final order.

So if you do get a suspended sentence, do not suspend your good judgment and behaviour.

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