Rules on House Arrest in Canada

By Christopher Herhalt - Updated June 16, 2017
House Prison Concept

House arrest for crimes in Canada began in 1996 as the Canadian government feared that continued use of prison sentences would strain the corrections system. The Canadian system uses house arrest only in lieu of jail terms of two years or less. Canada's Criminal Code justifies the use of house arrest by saying that "an offender should not be deprived of liberty, if less restrictive sanctions may be appropriate in the circumstances."

Use of House Arrest

Generally, judges only sentence offenders to house arrest in cases where the court establishes that the offender poses little threat to the community. The court must also make sure the sentence of house arrest fulfills five conditions set forth in Section 718 of the Criminal Code of Canada. These are: that sentence will deter unlawful conduct; the sentence will deter the offender from committing more crimes; the sentence will rehabilitate the offender; the sentence will provide reparations to the victims of the offender's crimes; and that the offense will promote responsible action in the offender's future. Judges cannot use house arrest for crimes whose punishments have mandatory minimum sentences or crimes punishable by 10 years or more in prison.

Conditions

The conditions of an offender's house arrest vary with the circumstances and severity of the crime. Those sentenced to house arrest must not commit any more crimes, must appear before the court when asked, must report to a supervisor within two days of beginning the sentence and report back to the supervisor whenever necessary. He may also need to alert the court if he changes jobs or leaves the city where he usually resides.

Terms of House Arrest

It is implied that the offender will remain in the "house" where the house arrest sentence will be served. However, she could also be allowed certain outside privileges for work, study or medical reasons. She may even be given a simple curfew. The court may force the offender to abstain from all drugs and alcohol, from purchasing anything the Criminal Code defines as a weapon or perform up to 240 hours of community service during the term of the sentence. The court may order an offender to attend rehab or mandate that the offender care for her dependents. If an offender violates the terms of her house arrest, the judge could send her to jail.

New Developments

On April 22, 2010, the ruling Conservative Party of Canada introduced legislation into the House of Commons that would prevent anyone convicted of arson, fraud, counterfeiting, aggravated assault, street racing causing death and several other crimes from receiving a sentence of house arrest. According to the Library of the Canadian Parliament, the bill, called "C-16," has been referred to the Justice and Human Rights Committee for debate.

About the Author

Christopher Herhalt has been writing for print and web since 2008. He has been published in "The Charlatan" newspaper of Ottawa and "The Tehran Times" of Tehran, Iran. Herhalt received the Carleton University School of Journalism's K. Phyllis Wilson Award for excellence after his first year of study. He is enrolled in the Honors Bachelor of Journalism program at Carleton University in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

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