Legal Studies 3080

Section 4 - After the Trial

Lesson 1: Sentencing

A few years back, Kevin, a young man from Windsor, Ontario, was driving a vehicle after a night of drinking in a local tavern. He lost control of the car, and his two best friends were killed in the resulting crash. Kevin was entirely responsible for the accident. As he said himself in one of his 14 presentations at high schools in the Windsor area, "No one else forced me to get behind the wheel. No one else forced me to drink. It was all my decision. It was the stupidest decision of my life, and I'm paying for the consequences of it right now."

You may be wondering what this has to do with the issue of sentencing. The answer is that Kevin's high-school presentations were part of the sentence handed down when he pleaded guilty to two counts of dangerous driving causing death. The presiding judge placed Kevin on a three-year probation and ordered him to perform 750 hours of community service , part of which involved speaking to local high school students about the crash.

Something to Think About

Many people argued that Kevin should have been sent to prison for what he did. After all, due to his irresponsible behavior, two people lost their lives. Others felt that in losing his two best friends and in having to live with the guilt of having killed them, Kevin was punished enough. The community service, they argued, did far more good for Kevin and other teens than a jail sentence would have done.

What are your views on this question?

Suggested Answer: Were you able to supply reasons for your position? This question gets back to the fundamental issue in sentencing ... the degree to which sentences should punish or pay back offenders and deter others from similar acts versus the degree to which they should aim at rehabilitating offenders and helping them once again become contributing members of society.

Every day judges face sentencing decisions of this sort. They have to decide not only what is best for society but what is best for the person convicted of the crime as well. Judges must take a number of factors into consideration when they impose sentences; you will be looking at those factors in this lesson. The first thing to understand in approaching those factors, though, is the different objectives sentencing has.