The average perception of a person’s legal reputation or record is usually pretty simple. Most people think that they only have to worry about a problem with their record if they are charged, tried and convicted of a criminal act. It’s true that for anyone with an actual criminal conviction, this does mean that there is a file created in the Canadian Police Information Centre database. Anyone that makes an inquiry for a background check on criminal records will have full, legal access to that record. Moreover, those same records carry over to American border security access, so traveling can also be difficult depending on the nature of the content of the criminal record.
But what if you were charged with a criminal offense but not convicted? There have been plenty of instances where people have been tried but ultimately found not guilty of a criminal charge. In a case such as this, what happens to you, and what will people see if they decide to conduct a background check?
A Record Doesn’t Have To Be Criminal
Anytime you are involved in what is suspected to be a criminal act, from the moment charges are filed to the final resolution of the case; there is a record kept. Even if you are not convicted of a criminal charge, the record of the charge and the ultimate result is still documented. This is true whether it is withdrawal of charges, a dismissal or a plea of not guilty being agreed upon by a jury.
In some cases, even if you are not directly involved in a criminal charge, but merely a participant in some way, the fact that your name is mentioned in a police report still exists in some records. For example in June 2012, a woman was stopped by the US Customs & Border Patrol (CBP) on her way across the American border in order to catch a flight at an American airport. She was stopped at the border because when the CBP conducted a background check, it was found that she was named in a police report for emergency admittance into a hospital for clinical depression. She was not charged with anything. However, the CBP had the authority to revoke her entry across the border on the grounds that she needed a doctor to vouch for her before they admitted entry.
The same holds true for criminal proceedings, regardless of the final result. A check for a criminal record will have a complete entry of events, even if the end result was not a conviction. And agencies such as the CBP may have access to these and police reports, not just the official database that lists whether a conviction was achieved on an individual or not.
Your Everyday Options
This means that in most cases, for something such as a job application that requires a normal background check, there is still a chance that someone who looks in a background check may find evidence of criminal charges being laid. These proceedings can be purged from the records through an absolute or conditional discharge, but this requires action on your part if you want it eliminated.
Always remember that the complete proceedings for any criminal case are always documented, and the results may still appear in a normal background check. In these cases, legal organizations such as the RCMP, police, and Customs & Border Patrol between the USA and Canada have access to more complete documents, such as actual police reports, even when no charges are filed. And it is up to their own discretion what they decide to do should they retrieve this information and take a look at it.
If you’ve been convicted of a criminal offense, or if you fear that your name might still be out there even though you weren’t convicted, contact us today. We can help you apply for a record suspension or file destruction and advise you on which steps to take next.