Discharges – Conditional and Absolute

Discharges – Conditional or Absolute

There seems to be some confusion for a lot of people as to what a discharge is exactly. A discharge is a finding of guilt but is not the same as a conviction in that it only stays on a person’s criminal record for a certain period of time. It may sound strange but a discharge is a finding of guilt where the individual was not convicted. Sounds like mumbo jumbo but it’s true.

To begin, there are 2 types of discharge: conditional and absolute.

  • A conditional discharge will appear on a person’s federal criminal record for a period of 3 years.
  • An absolute discharge will appear on a person’s federal criminal record for a period of 1 year.

The record will stay with you for the period mentioned above starting from the date that it was ordered. Conditional discharges require that the offender meet certain requirements otherwise the discharge may be rescinded in favour of an actual conviction.

Today, discharges are purged automatically from the RCMP system after the required waiting period has expired but prior to July of 1992, offenders actually had to submit a purge request to the RCMP to have their discharge removed from their criminal record.

If you received a discharge prior to July 1992, your discharge is still showing on CPIC and anyone performing a background check on you will see it (including US Customs and Border Protection). Remember that a discharge is still a guilty finding and you are likely to be refused entry to the United States and told to apply for a waiver if it is still on your record.

People who received discharges after 1992 are not totally in the clear, however. I have had numerous files across my desk where a discharge was showing up as a conviction on a person’s criminal record and was never purged when it should have been.

The lesson is that you should never take anything for granted and always verify that your discharge was properly purged. One really good way of doing this is by having a set of fingerprints certified. This is the only sure way of knowing exactly what your criminal record contains.

Keep in mind that a discharge is not only held at the national level on CPIC. The arresting police and the courts also hold records of the discharge. It is very important to apply to have these records destroyed (especially in Quebec where courts allow the general public to search their system) if you want to be sure to remove all traces of your past indiscretion and to prevent the discharge from showing up on local police indices checks.

I hope I have clarified the issue somewhat here but if anyone has any additional questions please feel free to get in touch with a counsellor at 1-866-242-2411


Post Script: This article was written by Birgit Granberg, a few years ago. She worked with us from 2005 until 2012. She has since gone on to work in immigration. She is missed and her work here was greatly appreciated. BG, if you’re reading this. Hope you are doing well. đŸ™‚


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