How Are Crimes Punished?

A crime is referred to as a wrong against the state–that’s the standard definition. While the elements of many criminal offenses are similar, the penalties can vary by jurisdiction. For instance, stealing might be a misdemeanor in one jurisdiction but a felony in another.

The law that applies to a crime is determined by the act committed but if the crime was done over the Internet and it affected many people, federal charges may apply. That said, you should contact criminal lawyers in Toronto for legal advice if you’re facing criminal charges.

Misdemeanors and Felonies

Misdemeanors and felonies are classified into two different categories. Misdemeanors are less serious criminal offenses, such as pilferage, minor assault, and traffic offenses. The fact that misdemeanors are less serious types of crimes means they attract less serious penalties, which can be fines and imprisonment of up to one year.

On the other hand, felonies are serious criminal offenses and typically involve stiff penalties, such as hefty fines and imprisonment of over one year. Examples of felonies can include grand thefts, aggravated assaults, and homicide. Capital punishment is reserved for heinous crimes, although the last hanging was done in December 1962.

Setting the Punishment for Criminal Offenses

The law specifies regulates the penalties and punishments applicable to criminal offenses, for instance, the law may state that:

Acquiring property from another person using force or threats will be charged with robbery and may also be imprisoned for up to a maximum of 10 years, a fine of up to $10,000, or both. If you’re found guilty and convicted under this law, the above-mentioned penalties can apply—imprisonment of 10 years and a $10,000 fine.

Imposing Punishment

The judge can impose any punishment as long as they don’t exceed the provisions of the law. In other words, a judge cannot exceed the maximum punishment for a crime. However, the court is required to impose a mandatory minimum sentence in some cases. The following are the most common types of punishments for criminal offenses.

  1. Incarceration

Incarceration, also known as imprisonment, refers to spending time in jail or prison. Jails typically hold pretrial defendants and defendants convicted of misdemeanors and having sentences of less than one year. In contrast, prisons hold felony defendants who have been convicted for more than one year or are serving a lifetime sentence.

  1. Fines

A fine refers to money paid to the government for committing a minor offense. Fins are paid to the government or a government authority

  1. Diversion

A diversion occurs when the accused person gets a deferred sentence. This is how it works: the defendant must complete a deferred sentencing program before the case is dismissed by the court, judge, or prosecutor. Diversions or deferred sentences are typically given to first-time offenders to help them avoid criminal history in their records. Why? A criminal history can complicate your future in many ways. For instance, you’ll struggle with housing or employment if you have a criminal history on your record.

  1. Probation

Probation occurs when a defendant is convicted but the accused person is not sent to jail or prison. In other words, the sentence is suspended and the defendant is placed on probation. Probation allows the defendant to serve their sentence out of prison but in the community.

Probation comes with certain terms, however. The sentence only remains suspended if the defendant doesn’t contravene the probation terms, which can include:

  • Meeting the probation officer,
  • Avoid criminal charges during probation;
  • Remaining sober (abstaining from alcohol and drugs) during probation.

Failing to abide by the terms of probation can attract a revocation hearing and incarceration.

  1. Restitution

This is where the offender is required to compensate the plaintiff for their loss. In other words, the accused person should indemnify their victims to their initial state. Under, restitution, compensation goes to the person affected by the actions of the defendant and not the government, unlike fines.

  1. Community Service

Community service is imposed as a condition of probation. However, it can also be part of a sentence. This type of sentence is common in less serious crimes committed by first-time offenders. Community service ensures offenders pay for the damage they cause to society or the community.

Factors to Consider when Sentencing

The factors to consider when imposing a sentence can include:

  • The seriousness of the crime committed,
  • Prior convictions –criminal history,
  • Factors surrounding the crime;
  • The extent of loss caused by the accused person.

Talk to an Attorney

Different crimes can attract punishments and that’s why you should seek legal advice from a criminal lawyer if you’re facing criminal charges. Speaking to a criminal defense attorney has many benefits.

Besides helping you understand the criminal justice process, a good lawyer will protect your constitutional rights, and provide legal representation if necessary.




Janu Abbasi is writer, editor, and devoted bookworm based in Abbottabad, Pakistan. While he currently is the Senior Editor for content marketing agency Rehan Networks, he’s been slinging copy in various forms for more than a decade.

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