Your criminal record isn’t something that can be easily fixed or ignored, even if the accusations against you were originally false. Once something is on your adult criminal record, it will remain for 80 years before it is wiped away.
What is a Criminal Record?
Criminal records are not simple files that hold only your name, age, and conviction.
Your criminal record contains information such as fingerprints, any identifying marks, previous convictions and charges, DNA, and anything else that may be used to identify you. Even in the case where you are found innocent of a charge, it will appear on your record.
If you are convicted of a charge, it will appear on the record kept by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and made available to all police stations throughout Canada via the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC). Once created, a criminal record may be accessed by certain authorized agencies, security forces, individuals, and even USA law enforcement.
Areas of Your Life that a Criminal Record Will Affect
Criminal records can greatly hinder your life in multiple ways. They won’t impact only your interactions with police and how future charges are addressed but also impact various aspects of your everyday life.
When applying for a job in Canada, you will likely be asked to sign a form that allows an employer to request a copy of your criminal record from the CPIC. While there are laws in place to prevent workplace discrimination, there are no laws that prohibit employers from rejecting your application based on the presence of a criminal record.
If you have no convictions, employers may be more willing to offer you a job, but there is no guarantee. The stigma surrounding criminal records, especially when you have been required to serve jail time for a conviction, is high and will make employers wary of hiring you.
Citizenship for Migrants
If you are a migrant that has a criminal record, you are likely to face difficulties if you choose to apply for a green card or citizenship. Certain charges or convictions will further complicate your request for citizenship, especially if Canadian police have already requested you leave the country.
Adoption, Child Custody, and Foster Care
In the case where you decide to adopt a child, either with or without a spouse, you’ll be required to undergo a vulnerable sector check. The adoption agency may perform the check, or you may be requested to file for one and send the results to the agency.
While these checks for adoption are not permitted under the Criminal Records Act, they may be allowed in order to check for any prior sex offences or charges related to children. Most adoption agencies will make it a requirement whether you’re adopting internationally or within Canada.
You’ll also be expected to complete a vulnerable sector check if you wish to become a foster parent or during custody cases, for which a judge may use your criminal record as evidence of bad character and hinder your chances of getting custody of your child.
Having a criminal record may disqualify you from being a foster parent depending on the listed charges and convictions. If anything on your record involves children, you will be disqualified.
As criminal records can be accessed by USA law enforcement, you may be denied access across the border. Some countries are very strict about travelling with a criminal record. If you’re going to the European Union, the UK, or Japan, for example, your chances of being allowed in are much lower.
In any country where you will be staying longer than 30 days, or need a visa to visit, you will usually be requested to provide a copy of your criminal record. Unfortunately, visa applications may be rejected, and countries may deny you entry if you do have a record.
Much of the time, you won’t be required to provide your criminal record, and it won’t hinder you from travelling, but you’ll always want to double-check before going. Information about travelling with a criminal record can often be found on a country’s embassy page, which is always a good place to start if you’re looking for information.
If you already have a criminal record and you are charged or convicted for another offence, you will often receive a harsher punishment even if the crime is relatively minor, such as jaywalking. You’re also at risk for higher jail time, especially if the second offence is a repeat of your first.
How Does a Discharge Affect Your Criminal Record?
While criminal records cannot be tossed out or erased entirely, discharges can help lessen the gravity of your criminal record. Discharges may still appear on background checks, especially in the case of vulnerable sector checks, but they will lessen the effect your criminal record has on your life.
You may receive a discharge in place of a conviction, but it is still evidence of guilt. However, where a conviction will remain on your record for 80 years or longer, a discharge will remain for either one year or three years. After the allotted time, it will only appear on vulnerable sector checks in some situations.
A discharge may be granted in one of two ways according to Section 730(1) of the Criminal Code: absolute or conditional.
With an absolute discharge, the crime will remain on your record for one year, after which the RCMP will remove it. With a conditional discharge, you will be expected to abide by certain conditions set by the court, usually probation of one to two years. Given that you successfully abide by your probation conditions, a conditional discharge will be removed after three years.
Hiring a Lawyer Can Help
When you’re first arrested and charged with a crime, it is imperative to have a good criminal lawyer Toronto on your side, as any charge or conviction will damage your record. If you need help and are looking for someone to provide you with a strong defence, contact our team at Vilkhov Law.