Criminal Records Do Not Expire
I just spoke with a nice person who had been imprisoned for ten years for attempted murder. (You would be surprised how many of the people with serious records are the nicest people to speak to, on the other hand the shoplifters can be a nightmare).
Some of his fellow inmates had explained to him that if you wait 7 years after getting out of prison your criminal record with be expunged automatically. I want to make it clear that such is not the case. A criminal record NEVER goes away until you submit an application to have it removed. In other words, until you apply for your pardon the record is staying put.
There are waiting periods until you are eligible to have your record removed, but waiting periods until your record is automatically cleared don’t exist. In our industry we often speak to clients, like the guy previously mentioned, who are not sure if they have a record or not since they were convicted “a long time ago”. We often hear “15 years” thrown around as the amount of time that has to pass before you’re in the clear, unfortunately 5-0 years could pass and you would still need a pardon.
The waiting periods to be eligible for a pardon to seal your criminal record are as follows:
5 years for Summary convictions; less serious offences like DUIs, assault, possession and minor thefts.
10 years for Indictable convictions; more serious offences like trafficking, theft/fraud over $5000.
This waiting period begins from the completion of your sentence, including fine and restitution payments, time served, community service, house arrest and/or probation.
Once you are pardoned your criminal record is sealed from public record. Run your prints, name, and date of birth and nothing will show up. As far as everyone else is concerned your criminal record never existed. That being said, get convicted of another offence and your pardon can be revoked; your criminal record never truly expires.
Another common conversation we have with people is that their lawyer told them that their non-conviction would be automatically taken off their record, or that they wouldn’t have a criminal record since they were not found guilty in court. They’re under the impression that this charge will not affect them in the future, that they have nothing to worry about, and that the charge doesn’t exist. Unfortunately that is not the case.
Non-convictions stay or your record until you apply to have them removed. Discharges aside, if you have a non-conviction on your criminal record it stays there. While these offences are not visible on regular criminal record checks, for example a basic background check for employment, they still appear in the restricted section of your RCMP report. Non-convictions will appear in Vulnerable Sector Searches (more in-depth background checks completed if you wish to volunteer or work with populations deemed vulnerable) unless you apply for a file destruction to have them removed. Nursing, teaching, and social work are all areas where having a non-conviction may affect your ability to be employed.
The following are examples of non-convictions:
Stay of proceedings, peace bonds, withdrawn and dismissed charges, acquittals.
As with discharges, non-convictions have required waiting periods before the charge can be removed.
Stay of proceedings, peace bonds: one year after court decision
Withdrawn, dismissed, acquitted: 5 months after court decision
A file destructions ensures that all photographs, fingerprints, disposition documents from the court and record of the offence(s) on your RCMP report are sealed/purged.
So what IS automatically removed from your criminal record? Absolute and conditional discharges are purged from your record after the required waiting period has passed. A discharge is guilty finding in court without a criminal conviction. You do not have to apply to have them removed from your record.
Absolute Discharge: 1 year after receiving the discharge in court.
Conditional Discharge: 3 years after receiving the discharge in court.
What happens if you have convictions and non-convictions on your record? A pardon will ensure that all offences are removed. No, it’s not automatic, but the end result is the same; a clean slate.
Questions about obtaining a Canadian pardon or file destruction or unsure if you have a criminal record? Give us a call and we’re happy to help you figure out next steps so that you can move forward.