Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Conviction Definition:

The formal decision of a criminal trial which finds the accused guilty.

Related Terms: Presumption of Innocence, Guilty

The formal decision of a criminal trial which finds the accused guilty.

It is the finding of a judge or jury, on behalf of the state, that a person has, beyond reasonable doubt, committed the crime for which he, or she, has been accused.

As Justice Darichuk of the Manitoba County Court wrote in R v Hofer:

"Conviction is where a person is found guilty of an offence....

"A finding that the accused is guilty of the offence charged or a plea of guilty to an offence under ordinary circumstances constitutes a conviction for the offence although no sentence is imposed."

In the case of Harris v Cooke, Justice Darling wrote:

"The word conviction is sometimes used as meaning the finding guilty; at other times it means that finding together with the judgment or sentence of the Court."

It is the ultimate goal of the prosecution and the result resisted by the defense.

Madam Justice Arbour of the Ontario Court of Appeal used these words in R. v Farinacci to expound on the significance of a conviction in the process of criminal law:

"... the presumption of innocence is spent by the verdict, be it a conviction or an acquittal.

"A conviction does not create a presumption of guilt. It constitutes a legal, conclusive finding of guilt. Like an acquittal, it is enforceable unless and until reversed. After a conviction, there is no presumption left, one way or the other. There is an enforceable finding of guilt."

Once convicted, an accused may then be sentenced.


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