Understanding House Arrest and It’s Conditions

PUBLISHED ON December 13, 2021

Toronto criminal defence lawyer

House arrest represents a significant deprivation of liberty. While it may be less harsh than an actual sentence served in jail, it is as restrictive as it sounds. When used by the courts as punishment (as opposed to a “house arrest” bail condition), it is considered to be a period of incarceration served within the community – known as a Conditional Sentence Order (CSO).

Exactly what is a Conditional Sentence Order (CSO)?

Simply put, a CSO is a sentence ordered by a judge directing that the convicted individual serve their sentence at a particular address (usually their home) starting with a “house arrest” condition. Sometimes, the convicted individual will be required to wear an ankle bracelet or another form of electronic monitoring to ensure that they follow the conditions. There will generally be some exceptions to this “house arrest” condition which allow the individual to go outside for certain things such as to attend school, shop for groceries, or for religious purposes. Over time, the strict “house arrest” condition will generally disappear and the individual will enjoy greater freedoms.

A CSO is not available for any individual who receives a sentence longer than “two years less a day”. It is often the case that the CSO will start with the first third of the sentence being “house arrest”, the second third with further allowances to leave the residence, and the final third with much greater allowances to be outside of the residence. With time, the judge may review the conditions of the conditional sentence, upon application by the accused. The accused, however, is always under supervision.

The convicted individual must obey the conditions of the CSO. If the accused disobeys the conditions, they can be sentenced to spend the remaining part of the sentence in jail.

Eligibility for a Conditional Sentence Order (CSO)?

Again, the sentencing judge can only order a CSO when the sentence is less than two years in length. Further factors that are considered in determining whether an individual is eligible for a CSO include:

  • The offence doesn’t have a mandatory minimum sentence. 
  • The offence is not an indictable offence for which the maximum term of imprisonment is 14 years or life or a terrorism or criminal organization offence, prosecuted by way of indictment, for which the maximum term of imprisonment is 10 years or more.
  • The offence is not an indictable offence for which the maximum terms of imprisonment is 10 years and resulted in bodily harm, or involved the import, export, trafficking, or production of drugs, or that involved the use of a weapon.

As well, certain offences by their very nature, preclude consideration of a CSO. And on top of all of this, the sentencing judge must determine that the convicted individual is not a danger to society and can serve their time at home.

Types of conditions under a CSO besides “house arrest”

A typical CSO will contain the following conditions:

  • Be of good behaviour upholding peace
  • Report to a conditional sentence supervisor
  • Stay within the court’s jurisdiction
  • Be at court when requested to do so

A sentencing judge can also include conditions such as:

  • Abstinence from drugs/alcohol
  • Abstaining from owning weapons or carrying weapons 
  • Performing community service hours
  • Attending treatment programs

Again, failure to abide by any conditions of the CSO can lead to further criminal charges and the potential to serve the remainder of the sentence in jail.

The foregoing is for general informational use only.  It is not intended to act as legal advice and indeed is not legal advice.  Should you require legal advice in regard to conditional sentence orders, please contact Brian Ross.


A criminal record can have lifelong ramifications. Don't take a chance with an inexperienced attorney. I will fight to get your life back as I have done with countless others before you.

(416) 658-5855

Brian Ross is a founding partner at Canada’s largest criminal Law firm, Rusonik, O’Connor, Robbins, Ross & Angelini, LLP. Prior to founding this firm, Brian was a partner at Pinkofskys, a leading law firm famous for its vigorous defence of its clients.

Selected for the 2022, 2023, and 2024 editions of the Best Lawyers in Canada

Inclusion in the Best Lawyers in Canada is based on a rigorous peer-review survey. Recognition by Best Lawyers symbolizes excellence in practice and specifically, high calibre work in criminal defence.


Mr. Ross is a member of the Criminal Lawyer’s Association and Legal Aid Ontario’s “Extremely Serious Matters” Panel, consisting of criminal lawyers deemed to have the proven experience necessary to conduct trials in the most serious of criminal matters.


You will be contacted to discuss the case in confidence.