Custodial Sentence Law & Legal Definition


Custodial sentences are imposed by a court in a criminal case. They require mandatory custody of the convict, either in prison (incarceration) or in some other closed therapeutic and/or (re)educational institution, such as a reformatory, psychiatric counseling, or drug treatment program. Custodial sentences are reserved for the most serious offenses and are imposed when the offense committed is so serious that neither a fine alone nor a community sentence can be justified for the offense. It is opposed to a deterrent sentence, which doesn't impose confinement, but serves as a warning through alternate punishment, such as community service or a fine.