What is a conditional discharge?

By Last Updated: June 20, 2024

In Canada there are two types of discharges that may be available when you are found guilty of a criminal offence: Conditional Discharges and Absolute Discharges. A discharge is an extraordinary sentencing measure that will allow an accused person to avoid a criminal conviction, notwithstanding the fact that they have either pled guilty to an offence or have been found guilty of an offence.

As a sentence, a conditional discharge will require that you admit to the facts of the offence and that you comply with a set of conditions for a specified period of time. The conditions that accompany this type of discharge may range between 6 months to 2 years. Some examples of conditions that typically accompany a conditional discharge include keep the peace and be of good behaviour, remain within the jurisdiction of the court, perform community service, report to a probation officer, and will often include a weapons or firearms prohibition. If you successfully comply with the conditions stipulated by the court for the specified amount of time, you will be permanently discharged from the offence.

If you fail to to comply with the conditions ordered by the court, you can receive a new criminal charge for breaching probation or for failing to comply with a court order. Importantly, if you fail to comply with the terms of your discharge, the discharge can be revoked and you can be convicted of the original offence. If convicted of the original offence, you will not only receive a criminal record, but may be subject to a harsher sentence or penalty.

Who Can Get A Conditional Discharge

Because a conditional discharge is considered to be a special or extraordinary sentencing measure, it can only be granted for eligible offences and will only be granted when the judge hearing the application is of the view that the discharge is in your interests and the interests of the public.

You will not be eligible for a conditional discharge if you have been charged with an offence that carries a minimum sentence in the event of conviction. For example, some drug offences and sexual offences involving minors have a minimum sentence of one year of imprisonment following a finding of guilt. For these sentences, no discharge would be available. Further, a discharge is not available for offences where the sentence exceeds a maximum of 14 years spent in prison. This would include very serious offences like robbery or murder.

How To Get A Conditional Discharge

To get a conditional discharge, you will first have to plead guilty to an eligible offence or be convicted of an eligible offence. Once a plea or finding of guilt has been entered, you will need to go before a judge and present substantive submissions in support of your discharge. The main goal of these submissions is to successfully demonstrate that a discharge is in your best interests as well as the interests of the public. When making an application for a conditional discharge, the following key points are generally addressed:

  • The seriousness and nature of the offence. The more serious or harmful, the more difficult it will be to obtain a discharge.
  • The prevalence of the offence in the community. If the offence is extremely prevalent, it may increase the importance of imposing a harsher sentence to act as a deterrent to further, similar offences and reduce the likelihood of a discharge.
  • If you stood to personally gain from the offence. If you took advantage of other people for personal gain when committing the offence, the likelihood of obtaining a discharge will be reduced.
  • The value of property if any was damaged during the offence. The more valuable the property, the more serious the crime.
  • Whether it was a crime driven by impulse. If you invested a significant amount of time in planning the offence and the offence was highly calculated, it will reduce your chances of getting a discharge.

Generally speaking, a discharge will always be in your best interests, but the court will be less inclined to grant you a conditional discharge if you have previously and recently been convicted of a criminal offence. Typically, the court will be more inclined to grant a discharge to an individual who is of good character and reputation and who has no criminal record.

When considering whether it is in the best interest of the public for you to receive a discharge, the court will consider whether there is value in making your conviction a part of the public record. Generally it will be of value to the court to make your conviction public when it is necessary to protect members of the public, or when a harsher punishment is necessary to deter others from copying your behaviour. This is often the case with crimes such as trust theft, fraud, or some other offence where you took advantage of someone else’s vulnerability for your own gain. After committing these types of offences, the court will often be of the view that employers and professional associations should have the right to know about your prior criminal activities before hiring you.

Alternatively, the court could be of the view that you should receive a criminal record and a harsher punishment than a discharge for deterrence purposes. That is, perhaps due to the serious nature of the offence or due to the sheer prevalence of the offence, the court might find that you should receive a more severe punishment to send a message to the public and to deter others from committing a similar offence.

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.

Ask A Question

We endeavor to respond to questions within 24 hours. If your matter is urgent, please call our office or submit a request for a free consultation.

Client Reviews

Michael Oykhman is a very professional lawyer and the first time I spoke to him he asked about my situation and he gave me some very helpful advice and assistance and also told me his odds of winning this case. During the days I was in contact with micheal I could feel the level of professionalism of him and his team, he is able to respond back to you with any questions you have within 24 hours. In the end he was as successful in helping me win my case as he had initially promised me.If you are still struggling to find a lawyer, I highly recommend Michael Oykhman.


Please give yourself a favour and contact Mr. Michael Oykhman if you need any legal advice or if you are in a terrible situation. Even-tough, the odds are not in your favour, still they will go extra miles to help you out in bad situation and get you favourable outcome. Moreover, They will work on your file even after the business hours. I don’t have words to say thanks to Mr. Michael oykhman and Kiran Cheema who had worked on my file and get me out of trouble. I’m very grateful for your assistance and exceptional service. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.


I am grateful that Ms. Moira McAvoy was my lawyer, and I remain thankful to her for everything. She made a successful resolution to my case possible. Ms. Moira McAvoy is a professional, trustworthy lawyer, and a compassionate person. She is an excellent listener and knowledgeable of the law. From the start, she was an excellent guide. I did not know anything about the legal system and court, and she outlined everything clearly in advance, so I could understand things. She never rushed me through anything. She spoke clearly, explained everything, considered what I said, and provided options and advice. She kept me up to date on new information, requirements, and deadlines. She was always positive and this helped so much.


Ryan Patmore and his team are simply the best. I was bullied by CPS in 2020 and it landed me with three separate charges, assault, refusal to blow and DUI, which all went down as I was parked at a friends. After some research and a conversation with Michael, he directed me towards Ryan and at the time I didn’t know that would be a game changer in my favour! He is honest, transparent, helpful and a brilliant mind. He successfully appealed my license suspension with ATSB and then proceeded to get the crown to dismiss all my charges before trial. I never had to step foot inside a courtroom. If you are in need of a criminal defence lawyer, don’t think twice, get in touch with this firm and ask for Ryan Patmore! The guy is an absolute saviour.


Joseph Beller, from the very beginning when I first contacted and then retained Joseph as my representative I felt I was in good hands. When I emailed him with a question. I got a prompt response. We communicated often on the phone as needed. Joseph kept me informed as to the process. He made sure I knew all the potential results so I knew and could plan for the different outcomes. I know this his his job. But appreciate his professionalism and also his ability to not make me feel any extra stress. Well done.