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Victim Surcharge. What you need to know.

A victim surcharge is an additional – financial – penalty that convicted individuals face upon sentencing. The money collected helps to fund programs for victims of crime. If there’s a fine, the victim surcharge is an additional 30% of that fine. If there isn’t a fine, convicted individuals have to pay $100 for summary offences and $200 for indictable offences.

Judges find ways to get around Victim Surcharge

In October of 2013, the federal government made victim surcharges mandatory. In the years since then, several judges came up with creative ways to get around imposing the surcharge or have ignored it all together. Many judges object to imposing fines on impoverished offenders. For example, in 2014, an Ontario Court of Justice judge, David Paciocco, found that a $900 fine was grossly disproportionate that it would outrage the standards of decency. The offender was impoverished, Inuit, and had addiction issues. Justice Paciocco found that fining the offender $900 was cruel and unusual punishment.

Several other judges have followed Justice Paciocco’s example but recent appeals decision have upheld the victim surcharges as constitutional. This past September, Ontario Superior Court Justice Laurie Lacelle overturned an Ontario Court of Justice decision that found that the surcharge was unconstitutional. Justice Lacelle found that fining the offender $700 was not cruel and unusual under the Charter, even though the offender makes $136/month.

Although there are many judges and lawyers criticizing victim surcharges, at this point, they remain mandatory. That means that, in addition to potential jail time and a criminal record, convicted individuals can face steep victim surcharges depending on the number of offences. This is particularly troubling for low-income offenders.

The risk of an additional financial penalty on sentencing highlights the importance of having a lawyer to be on your side in court. Smordin Law accepts Legal Aid certificates and the lawyers have experience and sensitivity representing low-income offenders.

victim surcharge



Can Criminal Charges Impact Your Immigration Status?

Criminal charges can affect individuals in all facets of their life: from their employment and social relations, to their financial situations and living arrangements. It is important to note that when a person is in the process of becoming a Canadian citizen, criminal charges can affect the outcome of their application.

The Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) states that criminal activity can constitute one of the grounds of inadmissibility. This means that an application can be rejected if an individual has been convicted of a criminal act. However, this does not necessarily include all criminal acts. IRPA specifies that a conviction for an offence where the maximum penalty is 10 years imprisonment, or a sentence of more than six months in jail can be grounds for deportation. Immigration status can be a mitigating factor in some criminal cases, but it is not always determinative of whether a person will receive a sentence that falls outside of the IRPA deportation allowances.

In R. v. Pham, the Supreme Court found that “collateral consequences related to immigration may be relevant in tailoring [an individual’s] sentence, but their significance depends on and has to be determined in accordance with the facts of the particular case.” This means that when immigration and criminal law matters coincide, sentencing is decided on a case-by-case basis.

If you are concerned that a criminal charge can affect your immigration status, or the immigration status of someone you know, contact the lawyers at Smordin Law to review your options.


Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, S.C. 2001 c. 27, ss. 36-37.

R. v. Pham, 2013 SCC 15 at para 13


Incarceration and Medical Care: A Balancing Act

The Geneva Conventions, to which Canada is a party, govern the actions of sates during times of armed conflict. This extends to the treatment of prisoners of war, as specified in Convention III. In particular, the Convention III notes that prisoners shall be supplied with the necessary medical attention they need. Further, Convention III makes it clear that prisoners of war cannot be stopped from accessing medical care if they require it.

The same treatment, however, is not always practiced when it comes to Canadian prisoners in Canada. A current local case illustrates that. An inmate at the Hamilton-Wentworth Detention Centre was recently denied access to both a doctor and his prescribed medications. A representative from the Detention Centre clarified that refusals to take inmates to medical appointments were protocol – a protocol designed to protect the community. However, in jail, the prisoner in question does not have access to the specialist he needs, and the Hamilton-Wentworth Detention Centre lacks a medical unit.

The lawyers at Smordin Law understand the importance of maintaining one’s health, even when incarcerated or when in custody awaiting trial. It is possible to be granted a temporary absence from an institution for the purposes of receiving medical attention. If someone you know needs medical treatment and is in custody, contact Smordin Law to review their next steps.


What is Fentanyl?

Fentanyl has recently been the topic of much discussion in the media. Since 2009, 665 deaths across Canada have been associated with the drug. In its original form, fentanyl is a powerful painkiller that patients use by applying medicated patches to their skin. In it’s street form, fentanyl is sold in its original patch form or as a powder or pill, and is often mixed with other drugs. Fentanyl can be extremely dangerous when not used under the supervision of medical professionals. It is highly potent and highly addictive, and the misuse of just one patch can have lethal consequences.

Manufacturing and distributing fentanyl for non-medical purposes can also have serious repercussions. As fentanyl is a Schedule I substance as specified by the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, an individual accused of possession of it could face up to seven years in prison. Because of how addictive fentanyl is, individuals who are accused of possession are often addicts themselves. This can be a mitigating factor in sentencing, as shown in the recent Ontario cases, R. v. Toth-Dogaru, and R. v. Marchese. In both cases, the accused was someone who suffered from chronic pain, and turned to non-prescription means to control their pain. Marchese, who was found with four fentanyl patches, received twelve months probation. Toth-Dogaru, who had among other substances in his possession, thirty fentanyl patches, received a four-month jail sentence.

The lawyers at Smordin Law have extensive experience working with individuals who were charged for drug-related offences. If you have been charged with a similar offence, contact Smordin Law to review your options.


R. v. Marchese, 2015 ONCJ 26

R. v. Toth-Dogaru, 2015 ONSC 480