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Victim Surcharge: Everything You Need to Know about the Penalty

 article about Victim Surcharge: Everything You Need to Know about the Penalty
2018-01-03 12:36:54
Let's begin with a clear definition of what a victim surcharge entails.

A victim surcharge is a monetary penalty that offenders must pay when they are sentenced. This penalty is imposed automatically, and the money collected from the offenders is used to help the victims of crimes through specific programs or services.

There are two distinct cases:
- If there is a fine - the penalty consists of an additional 30% of that fine
- If there is no fine - the offender has to pay $100 for summary offenses and $200 for indictable offenses.

Current Changes
Along with the existing federal victim surcharge, there have been some changes in the Charter in 2013. The penalty change has brought an increased accountability that became mandatory for all offenders. And it is still valid even for those who don't have the financial ability to pay their fine.

For example in R.v. Shaun Michael, the offender had to pay an amounted victim surcharge of $900, which seemed unusual and grossly disproportionate to the judge David Paciocco. The individual was a homeless man with an income of $250 a month and struggling with addiction.

After that case, many judges have considered that those cruel punishments are beyond any standard of decency and took action, but with no success. The federal victim surcharges are mandatory and constitutional.

About the Legislation
The current legislation is very clear, and it states that the surcharge has to be applied automatically at the sentencing time as a total of all offenses.

Although the punishment is irreversible and has to be the same for every convicted individual, the legislation provides limited judicial discretion regarding marginalized offenders:
There are circumstances when the offender can't pay his fine. Therefore, he can apply for a waiver and try to legally demonstrate that the payment is beyond his possibilities and that the penalty would cause him undue hardship.

The proposed legislation clarifies that the undue hardship has to fall into these categories:
- Homelessness
- Unemployment
- Financial obligations to dependants ( wife, children, relatives, etc. )

Another example would be when the offender has committed several illegal acts, without respecting the imposed conditions of a police release or a court order. In this case, so that the sum of all cumulative punishments is not exaggerated, the court may reduce the number of surcharges for the illegalities mentioned above.

To avoid the situations that occurred before 2013, when the federal victim surcharge was hardly ever applied, the court had to present legal reasons, and evidence for every exemption or exception from the mandatory penalty.

Conflicts Regarding Overlapping Surcharges
Along with all legislative changes, conflicts have inevitably intervened. For example, the R.V. Fedele, 2016 ONSC 2305 had to provide explanations about overlapping surcharges and to clarify the situation.
For three offenses, the offender will only have to pay $100.00 (which is equal to the one-crime surcharge), instead of $300.00, which would be the amount of the total number of crimes.

In the same case, R.V. Fedele, Judge Thomas J. Carey argues that there is no impediment for competing surcharges to be applied. Moreover, he considers this act as being legal as a result of simultaneous accusations. So the sentence was finalized, and the appeal was rejected.

Starting with October 24, 2013, judges no longer have the right to waive the charge for impoverished offenders, but may still influence the length of time imposed by the court to pay the fine.

As mentioned above, there are judges and lawyers in Canada who criticize the victim surcharge even to this day, although it is currently active and mandatory. Therefore, convicted individuals have to pay these legal obligations according to the number of committed offenses.

That can only be troubling for offenders who live in poverty and do not have enough financial funds to pay their penalties. That's why it is very important to have the correct information on the federal victim surcharge. When facing the inevitable risk of additional fines, one should seek the help of a professional lawyer in the court.

Some lawyers, such as David M.Cohn accept Legal Aid certificates and who have the experience and necessary knowledge to represent you in court in a professional manner. David Cohn Law is committed to the defence of persons charged with Drug, Firearms and Weapons offences, Drinking, Driving , Theft and Fraud charges, Regulatory offences, etc.

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