Dropped Charges Can Still Result in a Criminal Record

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An acquittal, a withdrawal, a stay of proceedings,or a dismissal of criminal charges can still result in having a criminal record.

Criminal Record Check

...information kept by the police can show up on criminal record checks, creating problems for those seeking employment, volunteer work, or travel...

When Gordon Sinclair of Toronto, Ontario enrolled at George Brown College, to start a nursing program, he did not expect to be forced to drop out because of a 20-year-old charge for which he was never convicted. His story was reported on in the Star newspaper in May this year.

In 1991, Gordon worked at a comic book store that carried Melody comics, a series featuring an exotic dancer as the main character. The slightly racy material caught the attention of the Toronto Police, and Gordon and his fellow employees were charged with multiple counts of possession of obscene material with the purpose of selling. The charges were subsequently dropped and he forgot about the incident until the results of a mandatory record check for his nursing program brought the old charges to light. Even though he was never found guilty of an offence, the charges resulted in his withdrawal from the program.

In conducting his research for this article for the Star published in May 2014, journalist Robert Cribb learned that according to the John Howard Society 43 percent of adult cases last year resulted in stayed or withdrawn charges. These individuals all have police records, despite never being convicted of a crime. The information kept by the police can show up on criminal record checks, creating problems for those seeking employment, volunteer work, or travel to the United States.

A non-conviction can refer to a stay of proceedings, an acquittal, a withdrawal, or a dismissal. For those seeking to clear their record of a non-conviction to pursue employment, volunteer work, or simply the peace of mind a clear record can bring, a Purge may be an option. Also called a fingerprint or file destruction request, a Purge can be requested by Pardon Services Canada on an individual’s behalf. This request involves the destruction of police information, photographs, and fingerprints. Although it is up to the discretion of the individual police force to decide whether to grant or deny the request, approval of the Purge would result in the destruction of information both at the local level with the arresting police force and at the federal level with the Ottawa RCMP. However, a Purge does not guarantee access to the United States for those with non-convictions looking to travel across the border. US Border Guards can deny entry to those with past police involvement or criminal charges, even if they were never found guilty. Pardon Services Canada can also help those looking for access to the USA by compiling an application for a U.S. Entry Waiver.

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Anna Austin
Pardon Services Canada
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