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What You Need to Know About Criminal Records in Canada

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If you are convicted of a criminal offence in Ontario, a record of the conviction is registered Canada-wide “for life” with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). Criminal records are held by the Canadian Police Information Centre , which makes them available to all Canadian police services, authorized agencies, and U.S. law enforcement.

While anyone arrested on criminal charges should be concerned about the potential penalties, the impact a criminal record can have on your future should be of equal concern. In fact, with some low-level-offence criminal convictions, the criminal record may prove much more onerous than the penalties.

Thus, no matter how apparently minor or trivial the crime, you should always seek out the services of an experienced criminal lawyer when facing charges. Numerous low-level crimes such as driving under the influence (DUI), vandalism, shoplifting, uttering thefts, and trespassing at night, are “ criminal offences .” If you want to avoid the criminal record that comes with a conviction, you’ll want the help of a skilled attorney who can get the charges dropped, dismissed, reduced to non-criminal, or otherwise favorably settled. Mass Tsang lawyers have successfully defended more than 1,000 clients from criminal charges and can help you mount an effective criminal defence.

How a Criminal Record Impacts Your Life

A criminal record can potentially impact numerous aspects of your life. Consider first the legal system. If you are convicted of another criminal offence in the future, subsequent penalties are much harsher than those given to first-time offenders. Additionally, if you are involved with family law or child custody issues, judges can assess your criminal record in making related decisions, such as custody and visitation rights. Speaking of children, a criminal record will also deny you opportunities to adopt children.

If you are an Ontario lawyer or have dreams of entering the profession, a criminal conviction may run afoul of the Good Character Requirement necessary for licensing. This means potential disbarment for active lawyers and license denial for applicants. Other professions with professional codes that may deny or otherwise impact licensing due to a criminal record include doctors, dentists, pharmacists, nurses, engineers, architects, geologists, and more.

Government agencies may also deny employment based on a criminal record and many other employers will not hire those with a criminal conviction. Even your ability to do volunteer work may be impacted, as many organizations require a criminal record check and may reject your participation. A criminal record can also hinder higher education aspirations, with institutional rules banning attendance/graduation for some disciplines.

A Criminal Record May Impact Residency and Travel

Your ability to continue living in Canada can be impacted by a criminal record if you don’t have citizenship. Those without permanent residency status may be deported and those applying for Canadian citizenship will be denied. Even those with permanent residency may be deported depending upon the crime .

A criminal record can also impede your ability to visit the U.S. and other countries. U.S immigration laws are quite restrictive in allowing those with criminal records to enter the country. DUI, drug, prostitution, and similar moral turpitude offences can lead to a denial of entry, as can multiple criminal convictions and/or penalties that included five or more years in prison.

Are Criminal Records Public in Canada?

Public access to criminal records in Ontario is governed by the Police Record Checks Reform Act , which prohibits such access in most cases unless written consent is provided by the person of record. Limited Exceptions are made in the administration of certain other laws, such as those regulating firearms and protecting children. While written consent may be required for public access, such consent may be requested when applying for jobs, or in relation to other undertakings such as volunteering or adopting children.

Does a Criminal Record Truly Last for Life?

While a criminal record technically lasts for life, the Canadian government allows for pardons on most offences. The Record Suspension program allows those convicted of a summary offence to apply for a pardon (record suspension) after five years, while those convicted of an indictable offence are eligible after 10 years. Once a record suspension has been granted, the criminal record technically still exists, but it can only be released by permission of the public safety minister, which rarely happens.

Additionally, many people convicted of criminal charges are sentenced with an absolute or conditional discharge, which essentially makes the criminal record temporary. Judges often allow the discharge for low-level and first-time offences when the convicted person does not represent an ongoing threat to society. Those with absolute or conditional discharges do not have to apply for record suspension. An absolute discharge automatically removes the criminal record after one year and a conditional discharge automatically removes it after three years.

How Do I Get My Criminal Record Removed?

To get your criminal record removed you have to apply to the Parole Board of Canada for a record suspension. Along with providing an application processing fee of $655.77, you must truthfully fill out a detailed application form and gather and submit various supporting materials. Supporting materials include:

  • Criminal record(s)
  • Court information
  • Military Conduct information (if applicable)
  • Local police records
  • Identity documents
  • Fingerprints
  • Other forms, depending upon the offence

Once the suspension is approved your criminal record is not erased, but essentially set aside and sealed. Access to such records is restricted to certain legal agencies under specific legal circumstances.

Contact the Expert Criminal Defence Lawyers at Mass Tsang

If you or a loved one is facing criminal charges in the Ontario court system, don’t risk getting a criminal record by defending yourself on your own. Given the potential disruption to your life that can result from a guilty conviction and subsequent criminal record, contact the highly experienced criminal lawyers at Mass Tsang to ensure that you have the most effective defense to successfully address the criminal charges.

Mass Tsang lawyers are dedicated to strategizing the most favorable response to criminal charges. Depending upon the charges and Crown’s evidence, this could entail building a solid defense tailored for acquittal, a move to withdraw or dismiss charges, or a negotiated plea deal for reduced charges or a discharge.

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