Criminal Records and Applying for a Record Suspension (Script 205)

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Who receives a criminal record?

Anyone in BC who is 18 or older and convicted of a criminal offense has a criminal record. A criminal record doesn’t include convictions under provincial laws, like the Motor Vehicle Act. Criminal records are not public, but police, prosecutors, customs officers, and other officials can still see them.

What is a record suspension and who can apply for one?

A record suspension (previously called a “pardon”) is a decision by the Parole Board of Canada to keep a person’s criminal record separate from the criminal records of people who have not received a record suspension.

If you have a criminal record, and you have finished serving your sentence (penalty) and can show that you now obey the law, you can apply for a record suspension.

But people convicted of sexual offences against minors (with some exceptions) and people convicted of more than 3 indictable offences, each with a sentence of 2 years or more, cannot get a record suspension.

What does a record suspension do?

If you get a record suspension, your criminal record will be kept separate from the criminal records of people who have not got record suspensions. And no one regulated by federal law can give out information about your criminal record or record suspension without permission from the Canadian Minister of Public Safety. But other parties not regulated by federal law (like a municipal police force or private citizen) can still give out such information. A record suspension does not cancel your conviction. And a record suspension does not guarantee you can enter another country or get a visa to enter another country. For example, the US does not recognize Canadian record suspensions.

When can you apply for a record suspension?

Before you apply for a record suspension, you must serve your sentence and then wait for a certain time. The wait time depends on the type of conviction: 5 years for a summary conviction (a less serious offence) and 10 years for an indictable conviction (a more serious offence). This time starts running only when you finish serving your sentence. And that means you must have served your jail time (including parole and statutory release); paid all fines, surcharges, costs, and orders for restitution or compensation; and satisfied your probation order.

If you received only an absolute or conditional discharge, you don’t need to apply for a record suspension because the record of your discharge is automatically removed from the Canadian Police Information Centre computer system. That happens 1 year after the date of the sentence for an absolute discharge and 3 years after the end of the sentence for a conditional discharge. But for discharges before July 24, 1992, you must make a written request to remove your discharge. Check script 203, called “Conditional Sentences, Probation and Discharges”, for more on this.

How do you apply for a record suspension?

Apply to the Parole Board of Canada. It costs $631. You may also have to pay other fees for local police record checks and copies of records, documents, and fingerprints.

The Board has a Record Suspension Application Guide and forms plus fact sheet on record suspensions. You can also call the Board for information at 1.800.874.2652.

You don’t need a lawyer to apply, but it is a complicated process with several stages. It can take a year or longer. The Clemency and Records Suspension Division offers free help. Its number is 1.800.874.2652.

What happens after you apply?

The Board will examine your application to see if you are a law-abiding citizen. If the Board is going to reject your application, it must first tell you that you can make a submission about your conduct and ask for an oral hearing. The Board must then consider your submission before it decides.

Can you appeal a Board decision?

No, you cannot appeal a Board decision. But if the Board rejects your application, you can reapply after 1 year.

Can the Board cancel a record suspension?

Yes. If you are convicted of an offence after you get a record suspension, the Board can revoke, or cancel it. The Board can also do that if you lied on your application for a record suspension, or if you are no longer of good conduct.

[updated March 2018]

The above was last reviewed for accuracy by Jordan Allingham and Paul Briggs, and edited by John Blois.

© Copyright 2018, Canadian Bar Association British Columbia Branch. Dial-A-Law is a registered trademark owned by Canadian Bar Association British Columbia Branch, a non-profit membership corporation.

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