Pardons and Record Suspensions
If you have a criminal record, contact us now for help with a pardon (record suspension). What’s the point of a pardon? Keep reading…
WHAT DOES A PARDON OR RECORD SUSPENSION DO?
A pardon, now known as a “record suspension,” seals your criminal record.
If you get a record suspension, any search of the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC) will not show that you have a criminal record. CPIC is a police information database accessible by authorities including the RCMP, Canadian police services, and U.S. border officials.
Once you have a record suspension, the underlying criminal conviction can be disclosed only under narrow circumstances.
TOP TEN REASONS TO GET A RECORD SUSPENSION
A criminal record could hinder your ability to travel especially to the United States. U.S. border officials have access to Canadian criminal record information and could probe your past. If they discover a prior record, you could be denied entry. This applies not only to persons visiting the U.S. but also to anyone passing through (“in transit”) on the way to another country.
Before travelling to the U.S. you should consult a lawyer with expertise in U.S. immigration law to determine your admissibility and steps that may be needed to ensure entry. This is recommended even if you have a record suspension or pardon since neither is recognized under U.S. law.
- Municipal Business Licence:
If you want to engage in a business that’s licensed by the city, you will probably have to pass a criminal record check. In Toronto such checks are mandatory and must be redone every four years (see policy). A criminal record could prevent you from getting licensed as a private investigator, security guard, limousine or taxi driver, driving school instructor, etc.
A criminal record could bar you from admission to a training program or some professional faculties.
- Professional Licence:
Most if not all professions require disclosure of a criminal record as part of the application process for a licence to practise. A criminal record could bar you from getting a licence.
- Rental Agreement:
Looking to rent an apartment or condominium? Rent applications often ask if you have a criminal record. A criminal record could disqualify you or disadvantage your application.
If you want to adopt a child or become a foster parent a criminal record may preclude you from doing so.
If a record for crimes committed in Canada prevents you from immigrating you’ll need a record suspension. Also, a conviction for crimes involving family violence could prevent you from acting as a sponsor for family members. A pardon removes this ineligibility.
- Police Scrutiny: If you get pulled over for a minor traffic violation or get stopped for any other reason, police usually run your name and check if you have a record. Unless you have a pardon, your criminal record will show up. Once it does, police will likely subject you to greater scrutiny.
- Increased criminal penalties:
Some Criminal Code offences provide for increased penalties if you’ve committed the same crime in the past. For example, if you have a prior conviction for impaired driving, the Crown Attorney may require that you be treated as a second offender. This means a mandatory jail sentence of at least 30 days. If you have more than one prior conviction, the mandatory jail sentence jumps to 120 days (a sentence of more than 90 days cannot be served on weekends). But if these prior convictions have been removed from your record, any new offence will not trigger these mandatory greater penalties.
Getting Hired: Many jobs require a clean record. These include jobs in banking, government, insurance, and law enforcement.
Even for jobs that don’t require a clean record, where a record check is part of the application, yours may be rejected in favor of an equally qualified applicant who does not have a criminal record.
Self-employment: Even if you’re self-employed a criminal record could hurt you. Business owners and independent contractors are liable to criminal record checks when seeking work with government and the private sector. Criminal record searches are standard for jobs that involve access to confidential information, e.g., bookkeeping and computer programming, or contact with the vulnerable, e.g., child or elder care.
Job Promotion: Even if you’ve been at the same job for years, you could face a criminal record check. In an increasingly security conscious world, many companies now require existing employees to undergo record checks. Such checks also may be demanded for work with various clients of your employer. A criminal record could disqualify you or lead to your dismissal.
If you were hired before your criminal conviction, applying for a promotion or switch to another department in the same company may require a criminal record check. A criminal record could prevent your advancement.
Bonding: A criminal record could prevent you from getting a job that requires bonding. Bonding means that the employer buys bonding insurance that guarantees repayment of losses resulting from employee dishonesty (theft or embezzlement from the employer) or negligence (damage to a client’s property).
Bonding is common for jobs that involve handling cash or valuables and work in other people’s homes (e.g., maids and repair technicians). It’s also common for accounting department employees or officers of the company who may be able to embezzle by altering bookkeeping entries.
A minimum requirement for bonding is usually a criminal background check. As insurers are apt to charge a higher premium if you have a criminal record, you may not be hired.
Volunteering: Many volunteer jobs require a criminal record check. A criminal record could block you from becoming a volunteer.
WHEN SHOULD YOU APPLY FOR A PARDON/RECORD SUSPENSION?
You should apply as soon as you’re eligible to avoid the harms listed above. If you’ve been convicted of a summary conviction offence the waiting period is five years. For crimes tried by indictment the waiting period is 10 years.
WHEN DOES THE WAITING PERIOD START?
The waiting period commences once you’ve completed your sentence including probation and paid all restitution, fines and surcharges. Prohibition orders (e.g., driving, firearm) do not count as part of the sentence for pardon eligibility.
IS A PARDON THE SAME AS A RECORD SUSPENSION?
Yes. In March 2012, the Conservative government replaced the term “pardon” with “record suspension” and introduced changes that made it harder to get one. Among other things, it increased the application fee from $150 to $631.
Also under the changes, a person who has been convicted of three offences prosecuted by indictment and leading to a jail sentence of two years or more, or has been convicted of a sexual offence involving a child (see Schedule 1 of the Act for a full list of these offences) is now ineligible for a record suspension.
IS THERE ANY CHANCE MY RECORD SUSPENSION APPLICATION WILL BE REJECTED?
Yes. Your application will be rejected if you fail to establish that that you’ve been of good conduct prior to applying. Such rejection is not uncommon.
If you’re applying for a record suspension for a crime that was prosecuted by indictment you must also show that it would give you “a measurable benefit,” sustain your “rehabilitation in society as a law-abiding citizen” and “not bring the administration of justice into disrepute.” In assessing this last factor, the board may consider (a) the nature, gravity and duration of the offence; (b) the circumstances surrounding its commission; and (c) information relating to your criminal history.
If the board proposes to reject your application, you’ll be notified and given a chance to make representations. If your application is ultimately denied, you can reapply a year from the rejection date.
IS A RECORD SUSPENSION FOREVER?
No. It will automatically cease to have effect if you are convicted of any Criminal Code offence (except an impaired driving offence), any drug offence (under the Controlled Drug and Substances Act), any Firearms Act offence, any offence prosecuted by indictment and certain other offences.
In addition, a pardon or record suspension may be revoked if you’ve been convicted of an impaired driving offence, or there’s evidence you’re no longer of good conduct. If revocation is being considered, you’ll be notified and given a chance to make representations.
WHY HIRE US FOR YOUR RECORD SUSPENSION APPLICATION?
We can help make sure your application is granted. (The non-refundable $631 government application fee will be wasted if you’re turned down.) Your conduct since your conviction(s) will be carefully scrutinized. We can help you articulate how you’ve turned over a new leaf and put your mistakes behind you.
If you were convicted of an offence prosecuted by indictment, we can help you show that a record suspension will provide you a measurable benefit, sustain your rehabilitation as a law-abiding citizen and not bring the administration of justice into disrepute. Failure to satisfy these criteria could nix your application.