What is a Conditional Discharge?

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  • Written By: Felicia Dye
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 29 January 2020
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Conditional discharge is a legal arrangement where a court provides a list of conditions that must be adhered to if a person wishes to avoid incarceration. An offender has the option of whether or not he wants to enter into this agreement when it is offered. In some cases, although the offense is minor or the offender has no criminal record, the court cannot enter into such an agreement due to mandatory sentencing.

If a person is subject to a conditional discharge, then he has been found guilty of some type of offense. A conditional discharge is an agreement that is made after a person's guilt has been determined. In this type of arrangement, the court will generally issue a list of probationary terms. These could require a person to take and pass regular drug tests, to maintain employment or school attendance, and to complete an awareness or rehabilitation program.

A person, wishing to avoid incarceration, may agree to these terms. There is generally a period that the court will set during which these conditions apply. If a person violates any of the conditions, he may be brought back before the court and sentenced for the offense to which the conditional discharge applied. In addition, if he voids that agreement by way of criminal activity, he can be given the maximum punishments for that offense as well. Although many conditions are specifically outlined, it is usually stated that committing any offense is grounds to revoke the discharge.


Being subject to a conditional discharge is a matter of agreement by the offender. A court or an attorney cannot generally force a person to accept this agreement. Some people find it in their best interest not to accept such terms. One reason why is because in some cases, the probationary period is substantially longer than the period of incarceration would be.

Another reason that some people would rather not be subjected to conditional discharge is that a person's probationary period may be a year, for example. He may violate a minor condition after 10 months. This could result in him being taken back to court and given the maximum sentence for his previous conviction without any regard for the 10 months of adherence that has passed.

One reason why courts favor such arrangements is because they often help to combat jail overcrowding. In most cases, conditional discharge is offered to people who have no previous criminal history, those who have minor charges, and juveniles. There are some instances, however, where due to mandatory sentencing, a court is prohibited from entering into such an agreement.


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