If you have been charged but not convicted of a criminal offence, you may still have a criminal record. These charges can show up as dismissed, withdrawn, stayed, or discharged on your federal criminal record.
The details of your charge, as well as your personal information and fingerprints, are kept on file in the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC) database. In cases where an absolute or conditional discharge was granted, the charge may be purged after a period of one (1) or three (3) years, respectively. However, whether or not these charges are purged automatically depends on the arresting police force. Some police departments will automatically purge these records, although some may not.
Be aware that prior to 1987, these retention periods for non-convictions were not yet in place. If you were charged with an offence prior to 1987 but received a conditional or absolute discharge, or the charges were stayed or withdrawn, then these records may very well still appear at the federal level on the CPIC database. To determine whether or not there are still records of non-convictions at the federal level, it is generally advisable to conduct a criminal record check of the CPIC database on yourself at your local police detachment.
The process for removing records for non-convictions is known as a “purge” or “record destruction”. This process requires us to petition local police agencies and the RCMP headquarters in Ottawa in order to destroy outstanding charges on your criminal record. Additionally, this process will destroy any personal information regarding your charge stored at the local police level, such as photographs or fingerprints.