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Everything You Need to Know About Criminal Records in Canada

Criminal records in Canada can have serious implications, both personally and professionally. Having a criminal record can affect your ability to get a job, travel, or even volunteer. Therefore, it is important to understand what a criminal record is and how it might affect your life. This blog post will provide you with everything you need to know about criminal records in Canada, including how to check your record, how to get a pardon, and more. Whether you have been charged with a crime or are simply curious about how criminal records work, this article will give you the information you need.

Types of Criminal Records in Canada

In Canada, criminal records are managed by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). Depending on the severity of the offence, there are two types of criminal records: summary conviction and indictable.

Summary Conviction Offences

Summary conviction offences are considered less serious offences. Examples of these offences include minor assaults, some traffic violations and possession of a small amount of marijuana. These offences usually result in fines or short jail sentences (up to 6 months). The record for these offences remain in the system for 5 years after sentencing.

Indictable Offences

Indictable offences are considered more serious crimes such as murder, fraud, sexual assault and major drug trafficking. These offences generally require a court trial and may lead to longer jail sentences (up to 10 years or life). The record for these offences remain in the system indefinitely.

It’s important to note that even if you’ve been charged with an offence, but not convicted, this will still appear on your criminal record. However, if you have been found ‘not guilty’, the charge will be removed from your record after a period of 3 months.

How to Get a Copy of Your Criminal Record

If you want to get a copy of your criminal record, the process will depend on whether or not you have been convicted of a crime. 

For those convicted of a crime: You can obtain a copy of your criminal record by submitting an application to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). In order to apply for your criminal record, you must complete the RCMP’s fingerprinting form. This form must be submitted with two sets of fingerprints, which can be taken at any local police station. Once your application is processed, the RCMP will issue you a copy of your criminal record.

For those who have not been convicted of a crime: You can obtain a copy of your non-conviction record by submitting an application to the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC). To apply for your non-conviction record, you must complete a Request for Search of Non-Conviction Records form and submit it with two sets of fingerprints, which can be taken at any local police station. Once your application is processed, the CPIC will issue you a copy of your non-conviction record.

It is important to note that obtaining a copy of your criminal record can take several weeks or even months depending on the volume of applications received by the RCMP or CPIC. 

Furthermore, the cost associated with obtaining a copy of your criminal record may vary depending on the type of record requested.

Pardons and Record Suspensions

If you have been convicted of a criminal offence in Canada, it is possible to have your record suspended. This means that, while the conviction will remain on your criminal record, it will no longer be available to the general public.

A pardon (also known as a ‘Criminal record suspension’) can help individuals who have served their sentence and have gone on to lead a law-abiding life by removing barriers to employment and travel opportunities. Depending on the offence, the waiting period to apply for a pardon can range from three to ten years.

Pardons are granted by the Parole Board of Canada (PBC) on a case-by-case basis. To be eligible for a pardon, applicants must not have committed any offences since the completion of their sentence.

The PBC looks at factors such as time elapsed since conviction and number of offences on record when considering applications. If approved, the pardon is registered in the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC). While pardoned records may still be accessible to some government agencies, they are not available to employers or members of the general public.

In addition to pardons, individuals can apply for record suspensions through the PBC. This procedure is similar to a pardon in that it prevents public access to the criminal record; however, it is slightly different in not cancelling the conviction itself. Record suspensions can be applied for after completing the required sentences and waiting period for minor offences (generally five years).

Ultimately, a pardon or record suspension can help individuals with criminal records to move on with their lives. However, it is important to remember that applying for one does not guarantee success; it is ultimately up to the PBC to decide whether or not to approve the application.

U.S. Entry with a Criminal Record

Entering the United States from Canada with a criminal record can be daunting. If you have a criminal record in Canada, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security requires that you apply for a visa or special travel document before attempting to cross the border.

You should be aware that even if you have been granted a pardon (record suspension) in Canada, this does not guarantee that you will be allowed entry into the United States. In order to determine your eligibility for entry, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers will conduct an in-person interview with you at the time of your arrival and review your criminal records.

Suppose your Canadian criminal record includes any of the following. In that case, you may be subject to an automatic denial of entry into the U.S.: any conviction involving weapons or violence, espionage or sabotage, terrorism or illegal activity, or crimes of moral turpitude such as rape, murder or fraud.

To improve your chances of being allowed entry into the United States, it is recommended that you obtain a copy of your criminal record and legal advice about how to address any issues that could affect your eligibility for U.S. entry. Additionally, applying for a waiver of inadmissibility before you attempt to cross the border may also be an option. 

It is important to note that even if you are granted entry into the United States, there is no guarantee that you will be able to stay or re-enter the country. The decision of whether to allow an individual entry into the United States is always up to the discretion of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at the time of their arrival.

Conclusion

Having a criminal record in Canada can affect your ability to travel, find employment, and enter the United States. It is important to understand the different types of criminal records available in Canada and what steps you can take to access them. If you have been convicted of a crime in Canada, you may be eligible to apply for a pardon or record suspension to seal your criminal record. It is also important to be aware of the implications of having a criminal record when entering the United States. By understanding all of these factors, you can make sure you are making informed decisions about how to handle your criminal record.

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