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Typical prison sentences

Updated April 17, 2017

Prison sentences vary depending on the crime committed. Some exist for a fixed number of years, while others have a minimum serving term, after which the judge may decide to release the offender. Typical prison sentences are suspended prison sentences, determinate prison sentences, indeterminate prison sentences and life imprisonment.

Suspended Prison Sentence

Suspended prison sentence is the sentence where the offender does not go to jail. However, the judge must first pronounce a fine or imprisonment penalty, and then suspend sentence implementation. Two types of suspended sentences exist: unconditional and conditional. An unconditional suspended sentence releases the offender of all obligations, restraints and fines. The criminal conviction, however, remains in the public record. A conditional suspended sentence keeps imprisonment at bay as long as the offender shows good behaviour. After a year, if the offender hasn't committed any crimes, the judge discharges the penalty. Some conditional sentences include a curfew and unpaid work.

Determinate Prison Sentence

A prison sentence whose length the court has fixed is called a determinate prison sentence. Determinate sentences under 12 months imply release of the offender at the halfway point. If the offender commits any crime during the remaining half of the sentence, he may serve it in prison. Determinate sentencing has sentencing guidelines, mandatory minimum sentences and enhanced sentences for some crimes. The guidelines allow judges to consider individual circumstances, while the latter two types are strict.

Indeterminate Prison Sentence

Indeterminate prison sentences are those sentences which do not have definite duration. The prison time does not state a specific release date, but rather a range of time, such as five to 10 years. The judge does not have any discretion over the duration of the sentence, and the offender does not have any possibility of probation or other alternative. The court considers various factors when deciding on a parole, including judge's recommendation, length of time served, mitigating and aggravating factors, offender's criminal history and risk to public safety.

Life Imprisonment

Life sentence or life imprisonment is the sentence where the offender serves the prison sentence until his death. Being a very severe sentence, life imprisonment is ruled out for serious crimes only, such as murder, and in some cases for rape, high treason, human trafficking, manslaughter, arson or armed robbery resulting in death or grievous bodily harm. Life sentence without parole is not allowed for offenders under 18, except in cases of murder, and only the President or the governor of a state may issue a pardon.

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About the Author

Jensen Johansson has been a freelance writer since 2006. He writes for various print and online publications, specializing in health and wellness, history, science and craft-related topics. Johansson holds Master of Science degrees in biomedical engineering and mechanical engineering, both from the University of Miami.