There are several alternatives to jail if you are convicted
Sometimes, but rarely, the crown realizes that it has no reasonable prospect for conviction and will withdraw the case against the accused. This puts an end to the proceedings. There is no criminal record.
A Stay of Proceedings is the termination or suspension of the charges and proceedings against the accused without a determination of the merits of the case.
A stay is ordered if the rights of the accused were violated in some way that was severe enough to deny him or her a fair trial.
For example: Excessive delay in trying the case is so great that your right to a trial within "a reasonable time" has been denied (the Askov case).
Since you are innocent until proven guilty, the official and final result is that you are innocent. There is no criminal record and the matter is over. It is a win for the accused.
Acquittal is the court's determination that you are not guilty. The crown has not proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused committed the crime.
Diversion is an alternative to a trial and conviction. The accused accepts responsibility for his/her conduct and agrees to some form of community service, and/or makes a donation, gets counseling, writes a letter of apology or some combination of these or other "good deeds." Once completed to the satisfaction of the crown the charge is typically withdrawn or stayed. Since there is no conviction, there is no criminal record.
Conviction is the finding of guilt, beyond a reasonable doubt, and the entering of a criminal record. Once convicted, you will be sentenced.
A suspended sentence means no jail time after conviction. The penalty is the criminal record itself. A suspended sentence usually includes probation
A fine imposed from a criminal charge under the Criminal Code of Canada creates a criminal record
Probation is intended to rehabilitate rather than punish. This is accomplished by attaching conditions like: alcohol counseling, drug treatment, refrain from contact with certain person(s), refrain from being within 500m of a certain location, etc.
There can also be a condition to report to a probation officer who will supervise to ensure all probation conditions are met
A breach of any of the conditions will result in another criminal charge: Breach of Probation.
Arrest for any other criminal offence while on probation will also result in a breach of probation charge for violating the probation condition "to keep the peace and be of good behaviour."
A Conditional Sentence is commonly called "house arrest." The sentence is only available if the sentence that would otherwise have been imposed is less than 2 years in custody. It is being used less and less frequently due to media and public response.
A peace bond is a legally binding promise made by a person to abide by the conditions of a court order. It is not an admission of guilt and does not create a criminal record. Usually agreeing to a peace bond results in the withdrawal of the charge against the accused.
It is becoming increasingly common for the court to force a person who it has just found innocent or acquitted, to enter a peace bond. This outrageous violation of simple justice allows the court to acknowledge reasonable doubt in the crown's case against the accused person, while supposedly providing some protection to the alleged victim.
Neither type of discharge constitutes a criminal record. Although the court makes a finding of guilt, no conviction is recorded against the accused. It is the record of conviction that constitutes a criminal record.
There are no conditions attached to an absolute discharge. It is automatically expunged in three years and essentially becomes the equivalent of a pardon.
A conditional discharge becomes absolute after the expiry of the conditions ordered by the court. These conditions can be virtually anything that the court deems appropriate and are generally the same sorts of conditions that might be attached to a peace bond or a probation order. There must be no minimum sentence applicable to the offence in order to qualify for a discharge.
If the jail sentence is less than two years it will be served at a provincial detention center.
If longer than 2 years, the term of incarceration will be served at a federal prison.
Intermittent Sentence. If the sentence is 90 days or less then an intermittent sentence may be imposed. This is a jail sentence typically served on the weekends to allow the inmate to attend work during the week.
There is no shortage of jails in Canada.
This is not legal advice, it is information
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