How a Criminal Record Can Affect Your Future
The Criminal Code of Canada is lengthy and complex. Without a criminal lawyer in Mississauga, Brampton or the Greater Toronto Area to guide you, understanding the potential consequences of simply being arrested for a criminal offence can be difficult.
Categories of Criminal Offences in Canada
You may have heard the terms “misdemeanor” and “felony” used in American law to categorize crimes. In Canada, crimes are categorized as either indictable offences, summary offences or hybrid offences.
Indictable offences are very serious crimes, with mandatory penalties that vary by the crime convicted for. If you are charged with an indictable offence, you are entitled to preliminary inquiry and can choose whether to have the trial heard by a judge alone or jury. That being said, murder and other very serious charges must be tried by a jury unless both prosecution and defence consent to a trial by judge only or if a motion is successfully brought with compelling reasons for the trial to proceed without a jury. Please note, these circumstances are extremely rare.
Summary offences are relatively less serious crimes, punishable by a maximum sentence of six months in jail, or for super-summary offences, 18 months in jail. For these matters, there is no option for a jury trial nor do you have the option to have a preliminary hearing. Trial is heard by a judge alone.
Hybrid offences are somewhat of a combination between the first two types. Many offences in the Criminal Code of Canada can be hybrid. The prosecution chooses how to proceed when a person is charged with a hybrid offence, generally depending on the severity of the allegations. In other words, the Crown decides whether to proceed with prosecuting the offence following the procedure either for a summary offence or an indictable offence.
Effects of Being Charged With or Convicted of a Crime - Your Criminal Record
Following either a trial where you are found guilty, or a guilty plea, regardless of whether you are convicted of a summary offence or indictable offence, a record of these convictions will be registered on your criminal record. This record remains even after you have served your sentence.
Unfortunately, even where you have simply been charged with a crime, and subsequently acquitted, conditionally discharged, or had the charges withdrawn entirely, your criminal record will temporarily, and in some cases permanently reflect the charges.
That being said, the time required to either clear or seal your criminal record will vary substantially depending on whether you were convicted or not, and what type of offences you were charged with.
A criminal record- the arrest and circumstances surrounding it- will generally only be destroyed where there are recorded charges that did not result in conviction. There are timeframes in which the police will retain the record, and after the expiry of the timeframe, the record will be destroyed- if you request it. Otherwise, where a pardon (now more often called a “record suspension”) is granted, this results in the criminal record being sealed for the purposes of criminal background checks, but does not destroy the record/history entirely. Please note that in either above case, the record will be disclosed in certain types of records checks, such as a vulnerable person search, where the record WILL be disclosed- even following an acquittal or dropping of the charges, unless special steps are taken. The criminal lawyers at Jaki Freeman & Associates can guide you through this process.
Below are the timeframes in which you may be eligible for expungement of your record, or sealing your criminal record by record suspension:
- For absolute discharges, stayed charges and most peace bonds - 1 year
- For conditional discharges - 3 years
- For conviction on summary offences - 3 years after all sentences are served (by application for a pardon)
- For conviction on indictable convictions - 5 years after all sentences are served (by application for a pardon)
Please note that these timeframes may vary by jurisdiction and a lawyer at Jaki Freeman & Associates should be consulted.
How Your Criminal Record Can Affect Your Life
Unfortunately, having a criminal record can affect many parts of your life, including your work, travel and immigration status.
Many employers will subject you to a criminal background check, and they have the right to do so. However, this practice is more prevalent in some industries than others. For example, roles in law enforcement and teaching will be incredibly difficult to get in with any type of criminal record. Getting called to the bar as a licensed lawyer can also be very difficult with any kind of criminal history.
If you are working with children or elders, or in the “vulnerable sector” (VS) generally, criminal background checks are very stringent, and are actually subject to their own process. A vulnerable sector check through the RCMP, or other police departments can reveal information not shown on a typical background check, including where charges are dropped, you are acquitted following a trial, and pardons for sexual offences have been granted.
Further, where you already employed, but are convicted of a crime, your employer may have grounds to terminate the employment relationship, depending on the specific circumstances.
In Kelly v. Linamar Corporation, 2005 CanLII 42487 (ON SC), the employee plaintiff’s action for wrongful termination was dismissed by the court. The employee was terminated once his employer became aware that he had been charged with possession of child pornography.
Although the plaintiff, Mr. Kelly, had not yet been convicted at the time of termination, the public had become aware of the charges, and the company was known to actively promote and contribute to children’s programs. Further, the court accepted that the employee had, at least to some extent, acknowledged his guilt to his employer prior to being terminated.
A criminal record can also be problematic for you and prevent your entry when you wish to travel to other countries. The U.S. in particular is very harsh on permitting travel to Canadians with criminal records, even where the record is for conditional discharge or other instances of non-conviction. The U.S. has a defined list of crimes deemed to be “crimes of moral turpitude” that often warrant denial of entry. This list is composed of a variety of serious crimes including drug-related and violent offences.
If you are living in Canada but are not a Canadian citizen, being convicted of certain serious offences may also be grounds for a deportation order.
Contact Jaki Freeman & Associates For A Criminal Lawyer in Mississauga or Brampton
Overall, a criminal offence record can have a significant effect on your life if you are convicted even after you have served your sentence. The potential impact of a criminal conviction is why you should call Jaki Freeman & Associates for your free consultation.
If hired, we will work very hard to defend you against the charges. We will seek to have the charges withdrawn or stayed. We also file appeals. In the event that you accept a conviction, we may be able to explore options that may lessen the impact of your criminal record on your life. Contact us for an experienced criminal lawyer in Brampton or Mississauga at 905-455-6000.