What You Need to Know About Criminal Records in


The answer to “what is a criminal record” is not an entirely simple answer. This is because criminal records sometimes get confused with police records. There are different categories of records, which means certain information will be disclosed depending on the record check requested. Further, not every encounter with the police results in a criminal record. There are some offences that are not criminal, but they violate municipal and/or provincial bylaws. For example, a parking ticket is given to violations of municipal by-laws.

What Is A Criminal Record?

A person will have a criminal record if they are found guilty of a criminal offence and receives a certain type of sentence. These sentences include:

  1. Imprisonment (continuous or intermittent),
  2. A fine or forfeiture,
  3. A conditional sentence (i.e. community service), or
  4. A suspended sentence with probation.1

A criminal record is stored in a registry administered by the RCMP. The criminal record includes information about the person’s identity, the charges against the person, their convictions, fingerprints, and DNA. This information is part of a criminal record if they have been found guilty of a criminal offence in Canada.

A person may have a police record, however, if there is a finding of guilt of a criminal offence but no conviction. This happens when the sentencing is an absolute or conditional discharge. Further, a person may have a police record even if there is no finding of guilt and no conviction. This happens if you were charged with an offence but the Crown prosecutor decided to withdraw the charges or sought diversion, or if you were acquitted at trial.

Are Criminal Records Permanent?

For the most part, a criminal record is permanent. There are a few cases where you can apply for a record suspension (i.e. a pardon).

Otherwise, criminal records are not removed automatically except for two exceptions. The first exception is youth criminal records. After a certain period of time, a person with a criminal record under 18 years of age when they committed an offence, cannot have their youth record disclosed unless the youth committed a serious offence and was sentenced as an adult. The other exception is that your sentence of an offence was an absolute or conditional discharge. In the case of an absolute discharge, the criminal record should be removed from the RCMP Identification data bank within one year. For a conditional discharge, it should be removed within three years. Though it should be automatic, this is not always the case. It is prudent that you double-check.

How Does A Criminal Record Affect You?

A criminal record has a significant impact on other aspects of your life.

For instance, travelling with a criminal record can be difficult. A border official may question you about your criminal record and not let you into their country. Further, if you are convicted of an impaired driving offence and are trying to enter the USA by vehicle, customs officers can deny you access to cross the border.

A criminal record impacts employment opportunities as well. An employer can request a criminal record check and decide not to hire a person because of their criminal conviction.

If you have a family law or child custody issue, a criminal record will be a hindrance. A judge can consider the criminal record as evidence of bad character. This can alter a person’s child custody rights.

If you are looking for more information or have additional questions, please do not hesitate to contact us. We will be happy to discuss your matter over a free consultation. You can reach our office at 905-366-0202 or contact us through our website here.

1 Canadian Civil Liberties Association, “What is a criminal record?” (June 15th, 2020).

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