Nunatsiaq News
COMMENTARY: Nunavut February 02, 2018 - 3:30 pm

Legal Ease, Feb. 2

Intermittent sentences or “weekends”


In most occasion when people are sentenced to a prison term, they are taken directly from court to start serving whatever time in jail the judge has allotted to them.

An exception to this general rule is the “intermittent sentence,” sometimes known as “weekends.”

In specific cases and for fairly short jail terms, a judge can allow someone convicted of a crime to serve their sentence in pieces, instead of all at once.

An example may clarify this: suppose I have been sentenced to serve 16 days in jail.

Normally, I would go to jail and stay there until I had served my time. If I get an intermittent sentence I can, say, go to jail Friday evening and get released on Monday morning, which will count for four days towards my sentence.

The power to grant an intermittent sentence comes from the Criminal Code. The Criminal Code provides:

732. (1) Where the court imposes a sentence of imprisonment of 90 days or less on an offender convicted of an offence, whether in default of payment of a fine or otherwise, the court may, having regard to the age and character of the offender, the nature of the offence and the circumstances surrounding its commission, and the availability of appropriate accommodation to ensure compliance with the sentence, order (a) that the sentence be served intermittently at such times as are specified in the order; and

(b) that the offender comply with the conditions prescribed in a probation order when not in confinement during the period that the sentence is being served and, if the court so orders, on release from prison after completing the intermittent sentence.

Intermittent sentences are generally seen as being more lenient than straight time, and so they are granted usually when there is some evidence of remorse—perhaps a guilty plea—and where there is some reason to think serving the sentence intermittently will help in rehabilitating the offender, perhaps by allowing them to keep their job or to continue going to school or to maintain child care or elder care obligations.

Intermittent sentences are usually served on weekends, which is why the sentences are sometimes called “weekends in jail.”

But intermittent sentences do not have to be served on weekends. Sometimes people have weekend jobs and would be better rehabilitated by going to jail every day, except at weekends.

An intermittent sentence is lawfully available only if the total sentence imposed is 90 days or less.

That means that intermittent sentences are not available for very serious offences.

Commonly, they are seen in impaired driving cases, smaller frauds or more minor offences. Obviously these are very bad things, but compared to serious assaults or major frauds or impaired driving causing death, they are lesser crimes.

When an offender serving an intermittent sentence is not in jail, they are on a probation order. What that means is, at a minimum, you have to stay out of trouble and follow any other orders of the court during the time between each attendance at jail.

Failure to comply with your probation conditions and restrictions may result in the probation being revoked. What’s more, if you breach your probation, you can be charged with breach of probation.

If you are supposed to be in attendance at the jail at, say, 6:30 on Friday evening, make sure you are there a little bit early and never after 6:30 pm. Attend clean and sober and follow the directions of the jail authorities.

Serving a sentence on an intermittent basis should be seen as a privilege and requires full compliance with all the terms attached to the sentence.

James Morton is a lawyer practicing in Nunavut with offices in Iqaluit. The comments here are intended as general legal information and not as specific legal advice.

Email this story to a friend... Print this page... Bookmark and Share