Suspension of the criminal record: getting a pardon
You have been convicted of a criminal offense and you now have a criminal record. Have you heard of a request for a criminal record suspension (formerly called a “pardon” or “pardon” application) and do you want to better understand what that entails? Read our article to learn more about:
- the impacts of a record suspension (on your job, your trips, etc.);
- the conditions to be met to obtain it;
- the manner of making the request, the delays and the associated costs;
- the resources available to help you in your steps.
What is the suspension of the criminal record?
Information about a person convicted of a criminal offense is kept in a computerized record maintained by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) . This is called a criminal record.
Your criminal record is filed with other offender files, unless you ask for a criminal record suspension. This was once called a request for pardon or pardon.
Your criminal record will be kept confidential by the RCMP if you obtain a suspension from your locker. The information in your locker will become inaccessible except under very special circumstances.
To obtain a criminal record suspension, you must apply to the Parole Board of Canada.
It is not necessary to apply for a criminal record suspension if:
- You received an absolution after July 1992
- You have received a youth sentence
In both cases, your file will be automatically destroyed or archived after a certain period of time.
The effects of the suspension of the criminal record
The suspension of your locker does not erase the fact that you have been convicted . For example, to the question “Have you ever been found guilty of a criminal offense or convicted? Or any similar question, you should answer “Yes”. However, you can say that you have obtained a criminal record suspension to demonstrate your good behavior and your compliance with the law .
The suspension of the criminal record can mitigate the consequences of the record in the field of employment . It could also facilitate your immigration process in Canada.
Warning! Suspension of your locker does not guarantee that you can travel to other countries .
For more information on the impacts of a criminal record and the suspension of this file, you can read our article on The consequences of a criminal record.
Traces other than the RCMP criminal record
A charge leaves evidence elsewhere than in the RCMP criminal record. For example, police and courts of law keep information about the accused.
When there is a suspension of the criminal record, the Commission communicates this information to the courts and the police . In general, courthouses automatically make these records inaccessible to the public. This means that your file should no longer appear on the public register called plumitif .
It takes 5 to 10 years before you can apply
To apply for a criminal record suspension, it is necessary to wait 5 or 10 years after having completely completed your sentence . The waiting period varies depending on the seriousness of the offense for which you have been convicted.
It is calculated from the date the sentence is fully served . For example, if it is a fine, the waiting period begins the day you pay the full amount of the fine. If you have been sentenced to imprisonment or probation, the waiting period begins the day the sentence – including community service – is fully served. The date of parole or statutory release is not taken into account.
For more information on the time required to apply for a suspension of your criminal record, you can visit the Parole Board of Canada website or call 1-800-874-2652.
The Commission makes its decision according to several criteria
The Commission is not obliged to grant a suspension of the criminal record.
To grant a record suspension, the Board must be satisfied that the person:
- had a good behavior;
- has not had any other criminal convictions since; and
- demonstrated that forgiveness would help his rehabilitation in society.
In addition, the Commission may consider other factors when analyzing a request for a criminal record suspension. For example, the Commission may consider:
- the type of offense committed and its seriousness;
- the duration of the offense;
- the circumstances of the offense;
- the criminal history of the person;
- severe physical or psychological damage to another person;
In general, a person convicted of a child-related crime (eg, sexual contact with a child, child pornography, etc.) will not be able to have a criminal record suspension. It’s the same thing when someone has been sentenced more than three times with sentences of two years or more each time .
A guide and resources to apply
You can get a Record Suspension Request Guide and a form from the Commission’s website. This guide explains which documents must be provided to apply and how to obtain them.
To apply for a record suspension, you do not have to go through a lawyer or a company specialized in the field . The Commission does not favor applications from specialized companies in the field. However, if you wish, you can contact a lawyer or an organization that can help you with your application. These services are not free.
There are also free resources to support you in your steps:
- The Commission can answer your questions by e-mail or by phone (1-800-874-2652).
- The non-profit organization AlterJustice: their stakeholders offer free individual support.
Costs and delays to obtain a criminal record suspension
There must be a period of 6 months to two years before receiving an answer.
The record suspension application costs several hundred dollars. You must also pay the fees to obtain your fingerprints, a copy of your criminal record, court documents and the local police.