A fine as a sentencing option is typically imposed in conjunction with another sentencing option when an accused is convicted of a criminal offence. For example, almost all offenders convicted of an impaired driving offence will be ordered to pay a fine and have their license suspended by the court.
Section 734(1) of the Criminal Code gives the court the authority to impose a fine on an individual (not an organization) convicted of an offence.
Fines and Sentencing
As outlined in sections 734(1)(a) and (b), the court may impose a fine in place of or in addition to another sentencing option, as long as there is no mandatory minimum jail sentence for the offence. If there is a mandatory minimum jail sentence for the offence, the court may order the offender pay a fine in addition to any other penalty imposed by the court.
Section 734(2) of the Code states that a court can only order an offender to pay a fine where the court is satisfied that the offender has the means of paying the fine. The fine imposed cannot be excessive; the offender must be able to pay it. Where the offender does not have the means to pay the fine, it may not be an appropriate sentencing option. While the fine cannot be excessive, it must be sufficiently substantial so as to act as a general and specific deterrent for the accused and the general public.
Will I be on Probation?
An individual ordered to pay a fine after being convicted of a criminal offence will not be on probation unless the sentencing court makes a probation order at sentencing as well. It is possible for a judge to sentence an offender to probation and also order them to pay a fine, or a fine can be ordered on its own.
How Long will I get to pay my Fine?
When the court sentences an offender and orders them to pay a fine, the judge is required to inquire about the offender’s ability to pay the fine. The judge can only order the offender pay the fine where they are satisfied that the offender will be able to pay the fine. If the judge fails to do this, the fine may be canceled. As part of this inquiry at sentencing, the judge should inquire about how long the offender thinks it will take them to pay off the amount ordered.
The judge must give the offender sufficient time, based on the offender’s unique circumstances. The offender or their legal counsel will have an opportunity to make submissions on the offender’s ability to pay, and/or how long they would need to pay. There is no statutory time limit on when a fine must be paid. If the offender cannot pay the fine off in the time allotted during sentencing, they can apply to the courts for an extension.
What is the Victim Surcharge?
Section 737 of the Criminal Code outlines the victim surcharge. The victim surcharge is a mandatory surcharge imposed on all offenders in addition to any other fines imposed by the court.
If the court orders the offender to pay a fine, the victim surcharge will be 15% of the fine imposed. If the court does not impose a fine at sentencing, the victim surcharge will be $50 if convicted of a summary conviction offence and $100 if convicted of an indictable offence.
If imposing of the victim surcharge would cause undue hardship to the offender, the court will waive the fee. The offender and/or his counsel will have an opportunity to make submissions on this point during sentencing. If the court chooses to waive the fee, they must provide reasons for doing so on the record.
If I was given a Fine, do I have a Criminal Record?
An individual who is found guilty of an offence under the Criminal Code and ordered to pay a fine as part of their sentencing will have a criminal record unless they were granted a discharge.
It is possible for an offender to be granted an absolute or conditional discharge and also ordered to pay a fine. In this case, the offender would not have a permanent criminal record, even though they were found guilty of the offence.
What happens if I do not pay my fine?
Once a fine as imposed at sentencing, an offender who fails to pay may be sent to jail. As outlined in the previous section, the judge cannot impose a fine on an offender unless they are satisfied the offender has the ability to pay. If the fine is imposed and the offender does not pay without reasonable excuse, the court may order that the offender serve a period imprisonment in lieu of paying the fine.
Do I have to get a Pardon to get rid of the Record of my Fine?
An offender who is convicted of an offence under the Criminal Code and ordered to pay a fine as part of their sentence will have a criminal record and will need a pardon or record suspension to remove it from their record.