Understanding criminal records in Canada

Understanding criminal records in Canada 2


What is a criminal record?

Anyone who has been convicted of an offense under the Criminal Code of Canada will receive a criminal record. This is a record of all of the offences associated with that person, held in a database by the RCMP. This record will be held until you reach 80 years old (or sometimes 100 years old) unless under the following circumstances:

Absolute discharge

If you have received an absolute discharge, it will be removed from your criminal record one year following the date of the sentence.

Conditional discharge

Conditional discharges are automatically removed from the criminal record three years after the date of the sentence.

In both conditional and absolute discharges, if you receive the discharge before July 24, 1992, you will have to make a written request to have it removed.

To determine whether there are still charges on your record at the federal level, you can run a criminal background check on yourself. This can be done at any police station.

What happens if I am charged, but not convicted?

If you have been charged with a crime but not actually convicted, it is important to note that you may have a criminal record. When you are charged, regardless of what happens afterwards, your personal information (including fingerprints) are kept on file in the CPIC database.

If you are granted a conditional or absolute discharge, the charges may be purged from your record after a period of either one year or three years. However, charges are not automatically purged. That depends on the arresting police force.

For charges laid prior to 1987, it is important to know that these retention periods (the 1 or 3 years) did not yet exist. Because of that, if you were charged prior to that year, it’s quite likely that those charges still appear on your record even if you received a discharge, or whether the charges with stayed or withdrawn.

Again, the best way to determine whether you have a criminal record and what charges are still on it is to request a criminal background check on yourself.

To have your non-convictions purged from your record, you must petition a local police agency an the RCMP to destroy the outstanding charges on your record.

When are youth records destroyed?

Unless more crimes are committed, a youth record is destroyed at the end of the access period, which is typically between three and five years after the completion of a youth sentence. This access period will depend on the serious of the crime and the length of the sentence levied. For serious crimes, the waiting period will be at minimum five years and likely more.

For summary conviction crimes committed by a youth, the record is destroyed after three years. If probation was part of the sentence, the access period begins at the end of the probation period.

For more information about criminal records, contact Pardon Services Canada.


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