Conditional Sentence Orders (CSO) in Canada

By Last Updated: February 4, 2024

What is a Conditional Sentence Order (CSO)?

Conditional Sentence Orders (CSO) in CanadaA Conditional Sentence Order (CSO), commonly known as house arrest, is a jail sentence that the judge allows to be served in the community.

Whether a CSO is available to a convicted person is a multi-step analysis:

  1. First, the court considers whether a term of imprisonment of 2 years less a day would be an appropriate sentence;
  2. Second, the court considers whether serving the sentence in the community would not endanger the safety of the community; and
  3. Third, the court must consider whether service the sentence in the community is consistent with the fundamental purpose and principles of sentencing

The maximum sentence that can be imposed under a CSO is 24 months. During this time, you can expect to be on house arrest 24 hours a day. This means that you will be required to stay home at all times, with limited exceptions.

Exceptions to 24-hour house arrest

Typical exceptions to house arrest include:

  • Work;
  • School;
  • Religious services;
  • Medical and professional appointments;
  • Reporting to probation; and
  • Shopping for necessities (e.g., food, medical supplies).

Aside from exceptions that are specifically included in your CSO, you are obligated to stay home.

Who is Eligible for a Conditional Sentence Order (CSO)?

There are several pre-conditions to receiving a CSO, including that:

  • There must be no minimum jail sentence required by law for the offence;
  • The appropriate sentence for the offence must be less than two years in length; and
  • The offence must not specifically disqualify receiving a CSO in the Criminal Code of Canada (the “Code”);

The specific guidelines for imposing a CSO are found in section 742.1 of the Code:

Imposing of conditional sentence

742.1 If a person is convicted of an offence and the court imposes a sentence of imprisonment of less than two years, the court may, for the purpose of supervising the offender’s behaviour in the community, order that the offender serve the sentence in the community, subject to the conditions imposed under section 742.3, if

(a) the court is satisfied that the service of the sentence in the community would not endanger the safety of the community and would be consistent with the fundamental purpose and principles of sentencing set out in sections 718 to 718.2;

(b) the offence is not an offence punishable by a minimum term of imprisonment;

(c) the offence is not an offence under any of the following provisions:

(i) section 239, for which a sentence is imposed under paragraph 239(1)(b) (attempt to commit murder),

(ii) section 269.1 (torture), or

(iii) section 318 (advocating genocide); and

(d) the offence is not a terrorism offence, or a criminal organization offence, prosecuted by way of indictment, for which the maximum term of imprisonment is 10 years or more.

What Happens If I Breach My Conditional Sentence Order (CSO)?

Perhaps the most significant difference between a probation order and a CSO is that if you breach a CSO, the judge will first and foremost consider sending you to jail for the remainder of the CSO term.

For example, if you receive a two-year CSO, and breach your conditions 6 months into the order, once the breach is proven, the judge can immediately send you to jail for the remaining 18 months.

That said, the judge reviewing the breach has a range of other options available, so it is important to review each of them with your lawyer to see if another alternative will suffice.

What’s Next?

Our criminal defence lawyers are skilled at exploring all defence avenues to obtain the best result for our client.

If a conviction is inevitable, we will work to convince the judge that a jail sentence is not necessary, and instead advocate for a CSO, discharge, or probation order, where circumstances allow.

If you already have a CSO and have breached it, we will review other sentencing alternatives to minimize the chances you will have to complete the term of imprisonment.

Regardless of what stage you are at in your criminal proceedings, we are here to help. Contact us at Strategic Criminal Defence today so we can begin advocating for you.

For specific information regarding your case, please select the location that’s closest to you.

About The Author

Michael Oykhman

Managing Partner

Michael Oykhman is a senior lawyer and founder of Strategic Criminal Defence, a full-service criminal law firm with central law offices across Western Canada and Ontario.

My professional experience consists of countless court appearances and thousands of successful defences and satisfied clients. Over the last 10 years, I have worked to build a law office where all the lawyers share our collective experience, resources, and passion to help people. Our team approach to legal representation is client–rather than only law–centred. We look for opportunities to add value to our clients through strategic thinking and creative solutions.

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