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Criminal Records in Canada


Consequences of a Criminal Conviction

For many accused of crimes, their primary concern is the prospect of acquiring a criminal record. Even if you are convicted of a crime, an absolute or conditional discharge allows you to avoid a criminal record despite the conviction.

Further, some accused persons may be eligible to enter a diversion program that allows them to avoid prosecution (and thus avoid a criminal record). In some instances of assault and threats charges, the crown attorney may agree not to prosecute if the accused is willing to agree to a peace bond.

If a discharge, diversion, or a peace bond is not an option, a conviction will result in a criminal record for the accused.

The two primary problems that criminal records cause for offenders is that they can effect employment prospects and travel (please see our article on US travel with a criminal record).

How Criminal Records effect employment

Employers will commonly ask if you have a criminal record as part of their background checks. Those with criminal histories are frequently rejected for jobs. Sometimes, the employer will require a police background check to verify an employee's claim of not having a record.

Some offenders may simply lie about their criminal record if they do not believe they will be subjected to a background check in the future. Obviously, this could be grounds for termination if the employer ever discovers. Most offenders are already aware of this risk and may simply choose to lie anyway (being fired from a menial call center or sales job for failing to disclose a criminal record is not exactly much of a loss).

If an offender has been pardoned of all their convictions, they can truthfully answer "no" to the question of whether they have a criminal record. This doesn't mean their criminal history won't become an issue for the job seeker. If asked whether they have ever been convicted of a crime, the truthful answer is still "yes", even if they have received a pardon.

If I’m later pardoned is my record wiped clean?

Not 100%. A pardon will eventually cause your conviction record to be erased from the federal CPIC database, but not the provincial police database. Further, there is no guarantee the US customs service didn't download and retain permanently your record from the CPIC database while it was there.

Even being charged with a crime will result in your placement in a provincial database potentially for life. This database is accessible to police agencies and can negatively impact your life forever (as noted, it may also be accessible to the US customs and border protection agency in addition to Canadian police forces).

How does a record in the provincial database negatively impact me?

If you are pulled over or arrested, the police will see you were previously charged in the provincial police database. As many charges are discretionary (up to the officer), knowing that you had contact with the police previously will undoubtedly impact their decision to charge you.

This record of you being charged will remain in the provincial system even if the charges are withdrawn or you are found not guilty. Further, if you were convicted and later pardoned, the record will still remain in the provincial system. Just being accused/charged is enough for you to be entered into the provincial system.

For example: You get in an argument with your girlfriend and she calls the police saying you threatened her. The police show up and charge you criminally for making a threat. Eventually, the charges are dropped because she later recants her story.

Two years later, you get in an argument with your new girlfriend who also calls the police. The police arrive at the scene and are trying to decide who to charge. The police will then run your name in the provincial database system and see you were charged with a domestic dispute two years prior.

While you were never convicted, the police will see you were charged and may be less inclined to believe your story.

As noted above, the US customs agency may also have access to the provincial database (in addition to the CPIC database), which could lead to problems for you crossing the border.

Conclusion

There is both a federal CPIC and a provincial crime database that law enforcement agencies have access to and will influence their decisions if you come in contact with them. Your record will remain in the provincial system even if you are acquitted, granted a discharge, have the charges withdrawn, or are found guilty and later pardoned.


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Mark Zinck
Criminal Defence Attorney
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Please note: Mark Zinck is a paid criminal lawyer. All information provided on this website is of a general nature and should not replace or be relied on as legal advice. Each case is different and legal decisions ought to be made in consultation with a practising lawyer. Your use of this website is governed by our Terms and Conditions.