Arrested but not convicted – What does it mean for your record?

Here are two scenarios which we often hear when clients contact us:

  • Scenario 1: They are applying for a job believing they have never been convicted of any offences. When their record check comes back positive, they are shocked.
  • Scenario 2: They are trying to travel to the United States for some holidays, shopping or a business trip. The border officials say they won’t let them cross because they have a criminal record. Again, they are surprised by this information.

Arrested but not convicted: Pardon Services Canada advises their clients to purge their criminal record

Although a person may never have been convicted or found guilty of an offence, they may still have a criminal record in Canada. If they were charged and fingerprinted for an offence such as possession of marijuana or drinking and driving, and their charges were later dropped, a record of the charged is kept, as well as their fingerprints and photographs.

The police do not remove these charges from the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC) database when the charges are dropped. A dropped charge or non-conviction refers to any criminal charges with a court decision other than guilty. These include decisions of withdrawn, stay of proceedings, dismissed, or acquitted. All of these become part of an individual’s criminal record.
The issue becomes how to remove a criminal record that exists even if the person was never convicted.

Pardon Services Canada can request the destruction of such a file on a client’s behalf. The purge services petition to have fingerprints and photographs destroyed and to have the record of the charge removed from the local and national CPIC databases.

Be aware that some records are exempt from the purge process. For instance, police incident reports are different from a record created when an individual is charged and fingerprinted. These reports would not appear on a record check for employment or when crossing the U.S. border and cannot be removed through a file destruction process. In addition, absolute and conditional discharges do not require a purge or file destruction process. These files will be removed automatically after 1 year for absolute discharges and after 3 years for a conditional discharge.