Convictions Versus Non-Convictions
The majority of clients who come to see us at the National Pardon Centre require a Record Suspension to remove convictions appearing on their Criminal Record. Anytime someone is convicted in Court for an offence under the Criminal Code, he or she is allocated a unique number which is assigned to their Criminal Record and backed up by their fingerprints. This is known as the Fingerprint Serial Number (FPS number), and it is contained in the Canadian Police Identification Services (CPIC). The only way that this information can be removed from the public is through a Record Suspension (Pardon).
In some cases, an individual gets lucky in court and isn’t convicted for the charge for which he or she was accused. The following are different examples of non-convictions.
A discharge is usually applied when the accused is a first-time offender and the judge deems him or her to not pose a risk of recidivism. In essence it means that the person was found guilty, but not convicted. The benefit of a discharge is that it only remains on the record for a certain amount of years, before it is automatically (in theory) purged from the RCMP’s computerized system. During that retention period, the discharges will appear in the second column of the Criminal Record, under “Convictions”, which means that any agency, including the Department of Homeland Security, can access it.
There are two types of discharges – absolute discharges, where the individual is found guilty but is given no sentence, and conditional discharges, where the individual is found guilty and imposed a light sentence, such as probation, a fine, or maybe a donation.
As of July 1992, absolute discharges are automatically removed from one’s record after 1 year, and conditional discharges are removed 3 years after the court appearance. Anyone who was discharged prior to that date must submit a request to the RCMP to have their non-conviction removed.
It is important to bear in mind that despite the policy change in July 1992, some discharges remain on criminal records past their retention period. For that reason, it is important and recommended to have a set of your fingerprints certified to ensure that your non-conviction is no longer showing on your criminal record.
Additionally, a purge at the level of the RCMP will only ensure that nothing is showing on a federal level. In order to make sure that any information concerning your accusation is made inaccessible, file destruction requests have to be submitted at the arresting police force and the Court to seal any further information showing. None of it will be destroyed unless a request is submitted following the purge.
The different outcomes listed below are different types of not-guilty verdicts. They appear in the fourth column of the RCMP. They include all of the following outcomes which we will look at in greater detail.
Peace Bonds or 810s
Peace bonds, also referred to as 810s (the corresponding section code in the Canadian Criminal Code), occur when the charges are not brought to court and an agreement is made with the court to respect certain conditions. These can range from community service hours, to staying away from a certain individual. 810s appear in the fourth column of the RCMP criminal record, which means they are not made accessible to the Department of Homeland Security. Peace bonds usually last for a year.
This occurs when the accusations brought forward are “thrown out” of court and do not proceed to trial.
The accused was proven to be innocent in Court.
This occurs when there is a lack of evidence to proceed with a trial, so the case is closed.
Acquittals, withdrawn charges, and dismissals remain on the record for 5 months following the disposition date in court.
Stayed charges are similar to dismissals in that they are cases when insufficient evidence is provided to proceed with a trial. However, the file is kept open for a year in the event that new evidence comes to light.
Diversions occur when the accused signs an admission of guilt for a petty charge (such as minor shoplifting charges) and is required to make a donation or pay restitution to the victim. The accused might also be required to take part in a rehabilitation day, or write a short essay. As soon as the requirements of the diversion are met, they appear as not-guilty charges on the Criminal Record.
Again, it is important to remember that any legal proceedings brought against you, regardless of the outcome in Court, will leave a trace in CPIC. Your information will also remain in arrest records at the Police level, as well as in the Court. For those reasons, it is important to submit file destruction requests to ensure such information is no longer accessible to the public.
If you have any questions regarding your criminal record, or are unsure of how to proceed with your file destruction, please feel free to give us a call at 1-866-242-2411. One of our counsellors will be happy to help you out.