What is House Arrest? What is a Conditional Sentence Order?

What Is House Arrest?

House arrest is a loose way to refer to a condition that can require a person to stay in their house while they are serving a sentence or while they are on release. Most often, people talk about house arrest when they are referring to serving a sentence on a “conditional sentence order.”

What is a Conditional Sentence Order?

A conditional sentence is a jail sentence but instead of having to serve it in jail, the person serving the sentence can serve it in the community (most often in their house). A conditional sentence must be ordered by the sentencing judge or justice when a person is sentenced.

Can a jail sentence be converted into “house arrest” after a person is sentenced?

No, a jail sentence cannot be converted into “house arrest” after a person is sentenced.

I have been charged, can I do house arrest instead of jail?

Conditional sentences are only possible for a select few offences. Generally, to be eligible, the overall jail sentence must be less than 2 years. Whether you are eligible requires specific information about your charges. We recommend contacting an experienced defense lawyer to learn more about your options.

The eligibility criteria are complicated, and many offences are excluded by Criminal Code. Additionally, even if a conditional sentence order is technically available, there are many factors that a sentencing judge or justice will consider before imposing a conditional sentence. In addition, any of the underlying offences cannot have a minimum term of imprisonment under the Criminal Code. There are other specific requirements that apply that can exclude eligibility. Before imposing a conditional sentence, a sentencing judge will consider whether serving the sentencing in the community poses a danger to the community and whether the fundamental purpose and principles of sentencing can be satisfied by the sentence.

Becoming eligible for a conditional sentence order often involves negotiations with the Crown Prosecutor assigned to your case. If you want to know if you might be able to get a conditional sentence, it is very important that you speak to a lawyer. Please feel free to contact a lawyer at Pringle Law for a free consultation.

How does a conditional sentence order work in Alberta?

A conditional sentence is technically a jail sentence. However, it is a jail sentence that a person is allowed to serve in the community. This means that the sentence is by design intended to restrict a person’s liberty. In other words, the sentence will have very strict conditions.

What are the conditions?

  • The person will be bound by a period of house arrest, usually for at least half of the total length sentence. For any remaining portion, the person will be bound by a curfew;
  • The person may be required to complete community service hours;
  • The person will be ordered to abstain from consuming alcohol or other intoxicating substances;
  • The person may be ordered to attend counselling or treatment;
  • The person may be ordered to not communicate with any complainants or co-accused; and
  • The person may be ordered not to posses weapons and firearms.

Does a Conditional Sentence Order last longer than jail time?

Since serving a sentence in the community is usually much easier for a person than serving a sentence in real jail, conditional sentences are usually for a longer period of time than an actual jail sentence would be.

What happens if I am on a conditional sentence order and I breach one of my conditions? 

In most cases, if a person breaches a condition of their conditional sentence order, they will be ordered to serve the remaining portion of the conditional sentence in real jail. This can be extremely negative because generally any conditional sentence order you get will be quite a bit longer than just serving the time in jail.

Other less drastic options include changing optional conditions like adding more house arrest or reducing exceptions that might allow you to leave, suspending your order and making you serve part of the remaining time in jail or changing some of the conditions.

Do I have to have an ankle bracelet during a Conditional Sentence Order? How do the police monitor me?

Generally speaking, an ankle bracelet is not ordered and is not required. However, many jurisdictions require that a person get a landline phone telephone installed in their residence.

The police monitor a person on a conditional sentence by conducting random checks by either calling this landline or attending the residence in person. A person could be charged with a breach if they fail to answer the phone or come to the door.

Do I need a lawyer?

Being charged with a criminal offence is serious. Not only are the repercussions life-changing and long-term, but if you are found guilty of committing an offence the effects can negatively impact your family, career, and future. If you are currently facing criminal charges, it is imperative that you hire a lawyer who understands the various procedural decisions to help protect your future, including sentencing options like probation. At Pringle Law our lawyers are recognized for their ability to build solid defenses, conduct thorough investigations, and provide expert advice.

Our team is based in downtown Edmonton, AB, and we practice throughout Alberta, Western Canada, and the Northwest Territories. Contact our office today for a free consultation.