Starting Point Sentences

I have been retained as defence counsel on a number of robbery cases recently, and these files involve discussions with my clients about the jail risk they are facing.  In most cases, my clients are surprised to learn that they are at risk of a lengthy jail sentence.  Robbery, like a number of other offences in the Criminal Code, has a starting point of jail sentence.  Possession of cocaine for the purposes of trafficking as part of a commercial enterprise is another example.

The law tells us that if a person is convicted of certain offences, starting point jail sentences can be imposed.  For example, robbing a store has a starting point of jail sentence of 3 years.  The robber may not actually get a 3 year jail sentence, but this is where the lawyers and the Court will start when determining the sentence.  The next considerations are the aggravating and mitigating factors of the crime.  If there are more aggravating factors, the jail sentence can be longer than the starting point.  Aggravating factors include the use of a weapon, previous convictions for similar offences, and the commission of an offence against a spouse or family member.  If there are more mitigating factors, the sentence imposed can be less than the starting point.  Mitigating factors include expressions of remorse, entry of a guilty plea prior to trial, and lack of a previous criminal history.  The Courts will also take an offender’s personal circumstances into account when imposing sentence.