A criminal record for most people is usually thought of as a simple concept. If you’ve committed a crime, then the past record of that crime, arrest and subsequent conviction will be a matter of record that anyone willing to do a background check can find.
What most people may not realize is that a criminal record doesn’t just preserve a criminal conviction. Even if you are innocent of a crime, and the court eventually finds in favour of you with a not guilty charge, every step of that process is documented in a criminal record, from the arrest to the final verdict. For anyone that closely examines your record during a background check, this shouldn’t present problems if they take the time to read everything. However, for people that don’t thoroughly read all the information and are just looking to see if anything is flagged on a background check, this kind of information still counts as a “flag.”
So what kind of information remains on a criminal record, even if you’re not actually a criminal? That’s what we’re going to look at now, to see the differences between different non-conviction resolutions, and what you can do about them.
The most familiar form of non-criminal resolution is the acquittal, otherwise known as the “not guilty” verdict issued by a jury. This simply means that a conventional court proceeding has resulted in a jury deciding that you are not guilty of the crime you are accused of. However, the records of your arrest, such as your fingerprints and the subsequent court case and final verdict are still available to any who makes a background check.
In this situation, you are no longer required to go to court because the court itself has made the judgment to “nullify” your charges. In other words, the court has decided that there is no point in continuing a further case, and is canceling, or erasing the charges originally made towards you.
As with an acquittal, your arrest and processing are still present and will come up in a background check.
This is a more unusual form of non-conviction. When charges are stayed, this can mean one of two things. The court has decided, for the moment, not to continue with a case, but the case is considered “dormant,” meaning that if circumstances arise, the court can reactivate your charges and pursue them for a verdict once again. On the other hand, the court may decide to do nothing, and the stay of charges becomes permanent, with no conviction.
A discharge is when a trial proceeds as normal, and a guilty verdict is reached, but the court decides not to punish the individual, or put the guilty verdict on a criminal record. One example of this is when Todd Bertuzzi, a hockey player, pled guilty to an assault charge during a game when he got into a fight with Steve Moore. Looking at the context of the situation, the court gave him a conditional discharge.
An absolute discharge is when the court universally decides not to prosecute and render a guilty verdict, and the defendant is free to return to normal life. It is when the court decides not to prosecute, but only if the defendant meets certain conditions, such as community service, or reporting to a probation officer for a period of time.
A Destruction Solves These Problems
In all of these instances, a background check could still come up with information about an arrest, even if no criminal conviction is present. This means that the presence of this information can still have a negative effect on you, especially for people that don’t closely read the results of the check.
The best thing to do in these instances is to get a fingerprint and photograph destruction. This is a complete erasure of your files, meaning that when someone conducts a background check, absolutely nothing will come up, not even an arrest. The time for getting a file destruction varies. People who are acquitted, dismissed or withdrawn, for example, can seek a file destruction immediately but are encouraged to wait 5 months from their court date to ensure all federal records have been transferred. On the other hand, someone with a conditional discharge needs to wait three years before the file destruction can be enacted. For an absolute discharge, the wait is one year.
If this is something that you’re interested in, we can help. Having a clean record helps with both professional opportunities and travel ones. Contact us and see how we can help you to clear your record if you want a clean background check.