Canadian Criminal Sentencing/Available Sentences/Maximum and Minimum Sentences

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Statutory Minimum[edit]

It has been agreed upon by several courts that mandatory minimums act as an "inflationary floor" and sets a new minimum punishment for the best offender. [1]

Statutory Maximums[edit]

The maximum available sentence for a given offence will be provided within the provisions defining the offence.

Given the distinction between summary offences and indictable offences, the maximum penalties for summary offences will always be less than indictable.

Where an offence is punishable by "summary conviction", section 787(1) states the punishment will be a fine of no more than $5,000 and/or 6 months jail unless the offence specifies otherwise. Other available summary offence maximums include 18 months jail.[2]

However, under s. 735 where the accused is an organization, the summary conviction fine amount increases to $100,000.

The maximum for indictable offences will always be specified in the provisions. The code will specify a maximum of 2, 5, 10, 14 years jail or life.

It is generally stated that the maximum penalty is not simply reserved for the "worst of the worst" offenders.[3] All relevant factors must be considered and should only be consdered appropriate where the "offence is of sufficient gravity and the offender displays sufficient blameworthiness".[4]

On summary elections for hybrid offences, the court is bound by the maximum range set by parliament. However, the courts should not "scale up" or "scale down" the sentences due to the election.[5]


  1. R. v. Morrisey, 2000 SCC 39 [1], discussed in minority decision
    R. v. Colville, 2005 ABCA 319 at paras. 21-26 [2]
    R. v. Ferguson, 2006 ABCA 261 at para. 85
    R. v. B.C.M., 2008 BCCA 365 [3]
    R. v. Newman, 2009 NLCA 32
  2. e.g. s. 253, 264.1
  3. R. v. Solowan, 2008 SCC 62, [2008] 3 S.C.R. 309 [4]; R. v. L.M., 2008 SCC 31, [2008] 2 S.C.R. 163 [5]
  4. R. v. Cheddesingh,2004 SCC 16, [2004] 1 S.C.R. 433 [6]
  5. R. v. Solowan, supra