A criminal record is a damaging piece of information that can scar your life, reputation and privacy. In today’s world where everything is but a click away, the repercussions of having a criminal record are devastating. Here we will examine what a criminal record is, review what is stored in a criminal record, who has access to it and the impact it can have on your life.

A person who is charged with a criminal offence is entered into a Canada wide police computer system which is referred to as the Canadian Police Information Centre (“CPIC”) as soon as they are charged with a criminal offence. Depending on the type of offence (minor or serious) a copy of this information can be sent to the CPIC which is maintained by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. The Crown attorney will then make an election in court as to whether the crime is serious (i.e. they will elect by indictment) or minor (where the Crown elects summarily).

The CPIC has access to pertinent information such as vehicle registration, missing persons and dental records. CPIC creates a temporary file with this information, which also has a physical description of the alleged offender, personal information like date of birth and any added directives about the temperament of the individual. It can also contain the alleged perpetrators fingerprints depending on the type of offence.

The information in CPIC is stored in both hard and electronic copies. After a period of five years if nothing comes from the case, the temporary file is erased, but if the person was convicted the CPIC enters all the information contained in the temporary file plus all new developing information about the sentencing and conviction into its electronic database which can be accessed by any police station across the country.

There can also be cases where individuals have been charged but not convicted (i.e. the criminal charge was either withdrawn or the charges were dismissed after the trial). In the case of a withdrawal or a dismissal of the charges, the CPIC system will not necessarily reflect this information. However, if you have been granted an absolute discharge, the information is stored on their database for one year and three years for a conditional discharge. In addition, all hardcopy documents are destroyed.

Aside from the police, there are numerous agencies that have access to criminal records through CPIC. A few are listed below.

  • Parks Canada
  • US Customs and Immigration
  • Provincial and Federal Ministries of Environment
  • Provincial Securities Commissions
  • Department of Agriculture

There are three types of informational categories found in the CPIC. A full criminal record contains all information necessary from your name and date of birth, stay of proceedings, charges, jurisdiction conviction history and dates, and acquittals amongst other information. A criminal name index only indicates that the offender may have a criminal record and a criminal record synopsis shows only personal information and conviction history.

With all this highly confidential information available to select agencies, you may wonder who else has or needs access to it.

Importantly, you do. You have the legal right to request your criminal record from the police or RCMP through the Privacy Act.

Under Canadian Law third parties such as educational entities, employers and community agencies cannot access a person’s criminal record without their consent. This is why most times during an application such as a job application or to work as a volunteer, a request will be made that you provide consent. The type of access an employer or volunteer agency requests may vary, but usually, they want to have access to the criminal name index.

It is important to note that even though the CPIC system is purged after the allotted time period, the record remains accessible in a repository in Ottawa for five more years. In extreme circumstances, the records can be accessed to identify an individual who is for some reason unable to identify themselves (death or amnesia). Your record can be removed from the repository through submitting a request to the RCMP. Withdrawn charges or stay in proceedings follow the same procedure.

However, pardons follow a different set of rules. The National Parole Board can legally revoke a pardon, thereby enabling access to your criminal record, but if you follow all of the conditions of your pardon and it stays in place, then it is stored separately and sealed within thirty days. The police department who initiated the original report has ninety days to follow suit. There will be no trace of a criminal record on the CPIC systems if a pardon has been granted. Access to the sealed records is severely restricted and will not appear in any local or regional electronic networks.

If you have a criminal record, there is no doubt that it will have a negative impact on your life including affecting employment prospects, travel and volunteer work, not to mention the stigma of having a criminal record. Travel within Canada is not restricted, but leaving the county may be difficult depending upon the nature of your criminal record. For many crimes involving “moral turpitude” (i.e. property offences, theft, sexual assault, assault causing bodily harm, drug cases etc.) a travel waiver may be necessary for travel to many foreign countries, including the United States.

Even a minor criminal record such as for an assault conviction may also severely restrict your educational avenues and employment opportunities. For example, it may be difficult to enter law enforcement and banking programs. A criminal record for a more serious matter such as for sexual assault, theftdrug offences or robbery (i.e. crimes of moral turpitude) would severely restrict employment and travel opportunities. There is a large percentage of employers in Canada who would not hire a person with even a minor criminal record such as impaired driving.

In June of 2010 certain amendments were made to the Records Act with more reviews and changes to come. Contact the capable and experienced criminal and DUI lawyers at Kruse Law Firm and we will advise you how to obtain a pardon.

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