Criminal convictions can seem like the end of the road for convicted persons in terms of career, employment, travel, and other matters of their life. Although, sadly, this is usually the case for some people, the government gives a second chance to those who prove that their criminal life is behind them.
Through a pardon, otherwise known as a record suspension, your criminal record can be sealed. This gives you a shot at getting a good job, housing, and enjoying other opportunities and privileges that you would not have enjoyed with a criminal record.
So, how do I get a record suspension? Am I eligible? This article provides answers to these and more questions that every person with a record ponders. Well, let’s dive in, and you won’t be surprised by how long the government makes people wait before they can be considered for a pardon.
What Is a Criminal Record Suspension?
A criminal offence conviction can lead to many penalties, including losing your freedom and certain rights, fines, probation, and more. But, after completing your sentence, what next?
For many people, getting a job, housing, or generally living a normal life is quite frustrating after a criminal conviction. The criminal record that comes with it creates obstacles that you can only overcome by taking it out of the equation.
A record suspension entails the removal of one’s criminal conviction from the active CPIC (Canadian Police Information Centre) database. This seals your records in that they cannot be retrieved when someone does a criminal record check.
A record suspension essentially gives you a second chance after proving that you’re now a law-abiding citizen. It stops your past mistakes from defining and deciding your future.
Conviction Criminal Record
When charged with a criminal offence, there are several possible outcomes. These include withdrawal of the charges, a discharge (absolute or conditional), or conviction. Of all the outcomes, a conviction is the least favorable as the consequences are severe and lifelong. A criminal conviction stays on your record for life unless you apply for a pardon and have it removed from the CPIC database.
However, the parole board cannot remove some criminal convictions from your record, such as sexual assault charges involving minors. As we’ll see in this article, several other factors can make you ineligible for a criminal record suspension.
Getting a Record Suspension (Pardon) in Canada
The process of obtaining a record suspension is quite lengthy as it includes years of waiting to be eligible and long processing times after application.
Here are the general steps for the record suspension process in Canada:
- Complete your sentence in its entirety, i.e., pay fines, do your jail time, complete probation, or fulfill any other requirements.
- The wait begins! After completing your sentence, wait for 5 years if you were convicted of a summary offence or 10 years for an indictable offence before you’re eligible for a record suspension. Note that you must maintain good conduct within the waiting period to qualify.
- Time to Apply. The processing period for record suspensions by the Parole Board of Canada is between 6 to 18 months. Therefore, it’s advisable to start, complete, and submit your application several months before your waiting period ends. The application is lengthy, with lots of steps to complete. It’s advisable to retain an experienced lawyer to aid you with the process.
- Get the Parole Board’s decision. Confirm whether the board has granted you a record suspension. If they deny your application, you’ll receive a letter and will have a chance to respond.
When applying for a pardon in Canada, it’s essential to enlist an experienced lawyer. This eliminates any chances of making a costly mistake that could lead to the denial of your request.
So, what makes one ineligible for a record suspension?
- Some sexual offences – If you were convicted of a sexual crime involving a minor, you’re ineligible for a pardon.
- The number of convictions – If you have more than three convictions and were incarcerated to more than two years in jail, you cannot apply for a record suspension.
Also, keep in mind that your pardon can be revoked if you’re convicted of a new crime.
Vulnerable Sector Check
If you receive a record suspension for a sexual offence, your records may be revealed to enable a Vulnerable Sector Check. This check is necessary for individuals looking to work in vulnerable sectors, such as healthcare, social services, daycare, youth centres, and schools.
If your sealed record doesn’t have sexual convictions, a Vulnerable Sector Check shouldn’t be a problem, as your record won’t be revealed (in most cases).
I Was Acquitted; Do I Have a Criminal Record?
If you were facing a criminal charge but were not convicted, here’s some news for you, you still have a record. On the positive side, the RCMP automatically destroys these records after some time.
- If your case was withdrawn, the records are removed after 5 months.
- If you receive an absolute discharge, your records will be removed after 1 year.
- In case you receive a conditional discharge, your records will be removed after 3 years. This only happens if you fulfill the conditions of your sentence.
If you have non-convicted records, you don’t have to apply for a record suspension. However, it’s advisable to file an “application for non-disclosure of your computerized records.”
Do I need to apply for a record suspension if I have a youth record? If you were convicted of a criminal offence as a youth, you do not need to apply for a record suspension. Youth records are automatically sealed after 3 years for summary offences and 5 years for indictable crimes.
However, if you’re charged with a crime as an adult before your youth record seals, the system will move it to your adult criminal record. This will require you to apply for a record suspension.
Crossing the US Border
Canada and the United States share lots of information, including criminal records. This means that when someone wants to cross into the United States, their name can be checked against the criminal records’ database at the border.
Unfortunately, even when you receive a pardon, your criminal record will still be accessible at the border. Most people with criminal records have to apply for a US Entry Waiver to enter the United States.