What is a criminal record?

Simply put, a criminal record – or a police record – is a written record of a person’s criminal history. But that’s a bit vague so let’s look a little further.

The Common Criminal Record

When most people think about criminal records they think of the record kept by the police after a person is arrested for a crime and subsequently convicted in court.

The most common kind of criminal record happens when you – or someone you know – does something illegal, gets caught and is then arrested by the police. Following the arrest you are charged with a crime and then required to make an appearance in court. Then when you appeared in court you were convicted of the crime you were charged with.

In Canada this information is stored in CPIC which stands for the Canadian Police Information Centre. It is maintained by the RCMP, or Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

Other Types of Criminal Records

As mentioned above a criminal record can be ANY record of police involvement even if it didn’t result in an arrest or a conviction. So let’s take a look at the different levels of incidents that will results in some kind of criminal record.

Questioned by the Police – If you have ever been questioned by the police in relation to a crime there is a good chance a record exists of that encounter.

This is not the type of criminal record that will end a job opportunity because employers would never see that information. However, it is a criminal record nonetheless. The Parole Board of Canada, for example, has used this type of record to refuse pardon / record suspension applications.

Detained but never charged – It is somewhat common for people to be arrested by the police but never charged. Usually it is a young person who is taken to the police station, talked to, then released without being arrested. The police may or may not take fingerprints in this situation but either way a record will exist

Detained, charged but not convicted – This is fairly common. Even though the police arrest you they may not have gathered enough evidence for the Crown to make a convincing case. If this is the case you will not be convicted.

You may also receive a conditional or absolute discharge which technically speaking means you were found to be guilty of the crime but not convicted.

The result will be a notation in CPIC under limited distribution.

Detained, charged and convicted – This, of course, is the big one. The result will be a notation in CPIC listing your offence and disposition. This is the kind of criminal record that employers screen for and will almost universally eliminate you from the employment opportunity you hope to achieve.

If you have been convicted you need to remove the offence from public record. Learn how.

Places criminal records are stored

In Canada we have three separate levels of criminal records. CPIC, local police stations and courts.

CPIC – discussed above this is the National Repository of criminal records maintained by the RCMP.

Local Police Stations – Local police stations maintain their own records of police incidents. These are often provincial agencies like the OPP – Ontario Provincial Police or the SQ – Sûreté du Québec. It can also be a facility maintained at a smaller level of government.

Courts – Court records are maintained at every court house across Canada. These documents are public information and anyone can access court records although procedures vary across provinces. If you have documents of an arrest on file at a court house it is an important step to get rid of them.

For more information on criminal records you may want to visit our blog which has a category devoted to the subject.

Criminal Records

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