Breaking Down Criminal Conviction in Canada

Statistics Canada’s annual breakdown of adult criminal court data provides an eye-opening review of how the country’s court system resolves its hundreds of thousands of cases annually.

Canada's Criminal Court Patterns Are Changing

Mass Tsang

August 25, 2023 10:00 AM

As each new year begins, evolving with it the trends of the past, it becomes increasingly pertinent to be aware of what the changing patterns of Canada’s criminal court system represent.

Roughly Half of Ontario Criminal Cases Result in a Guilty Verdict

During the most recent 2019-2020 reporting period, Ontario courts rendered decisions on 392,604 criminal charges in a total of 101,258 criminal cases. Just over 53,000 of the cases - 53% - returned a guilty verdict on at least one criminal charge, and of the nearly 400,000 separate criminal charges addressed, 30 percent - 116,157 - were judged guilty.

Meanwhile, a review of this data over the past 10 years suggests that the actual number of criminal cases being heard by Ontario courts is trending downward. The number of charges in these cases declined between the 2009-2010 and 2014-2015 reporting periods, but have since trended upwards – a pattern which can most likely be attributed to the fact that those arrested on charges may be more likely to become repeat offenders.

Criminal Court Data and Calculating Conviction Odds

Recent data from Statistics Canada further shows that guilty rates vary widely between different criminal offence categories. For example, during the 2019-2020 reporting period, Ontario courts rendered guilty verdicts in 32% of the 1,374 criminal sexual assault cases heard. Of the 4,374 separate charges addressed in these cases, only 13% were adjudged guilty.

Trends in criminal impaired driving charges present a sharp contrast, however, as Ontario courts rendered guilty verdicts in 80% of the 11,361 cases heard and in 49% of the 22,180 separate DUI-related charges laid in these cases.

In both cases, while the odds may speak to the likelihood of a particular outcome, it is important to remember that at its core, Canada’s criminal court system operates on a case-by-case basis, relying on the nuances of each isolated scenario to render its final decision.

The Consequences of a Criminal Conviction

The potential consequences of an initial criminal charge are often prone to escalate, especially in the case of conviction. Pre-trial incarceration is common in the days awaiting trial, and even without the potential of a favourable bail hearing, there are a number of onerous conditions, such as curfews, prohibitions, and restrictions on activity that can compound into stricter penalties.

If the outcome of such a trial results in a guilty charge and conviction, further consequences include a criminal record that can hinder future employment and education options, as well as monetary fines and/or incarceration. Even a probationary sentence can lead to other restrictions and penalties, including:

  • Placement on the Ontario Sex Offender Registry
  • Loss of driver’s license
  • Alcohol consumption ban
  • Weapons possession ban
  • Travel restrictions
  • Curfews
  • Restitution
  • Community service

Turn to Mass Tsang for Your Toronto Criminal Defence Case

Hiring an experienced criminal defence lawyer is often a strong way to begin taking steps to limit a criminal conviction’s impact on your future.

Consult criminal defence lawyers at Mass Tsang when searching for professional, highly skilled criminal defence services in Ontario. With extensive experience defending Toronto-area clients from DUI charges, assault, sexual assault charges, drugs, theft, and other criminal charges, Mass Tsang lawyers closely examine all elements of every criminal case in their efforts to strategize the most effective defence and secure optimum outcomes.

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