For anyone that’s watched a lot of courtroom dramas or reality television in which court proceedings are covered, there has been a lot of terminology that is filtered down to the public. Words like “objection” and “overruled” are so familiar now that they are no longer even considered specialised legal language, and most people understand their meaning without requiring explanation.
But then there’s the term “withdrawn,” and while many people have heard the usage of the word in court, there’s another far more important association tied to the word that Canadians might not know about.
Mostly for Lawyers
The most popular usage of the word “withdrawn” is most frequently heard when questioning witnesses on the stand. This type of withdrawn usually occurs if a lawyer or the judge feels that a line of questioning is inappropriate, hostile, or irrelevant to the case, in which case, an objection is raised. If the objection is approved of, or “sustained” by the judge, then the lawyer asking the question indicates that the question is “withdrawn.”
In this more familiar situation, it means that the witness on the stand is not legally required to answer the question, and the question itself will be stricken and not entered into the official court records. In theory, this also means that jurors making a decision about the case should not enter the question or its implications into their consideration of a verdict when the time comes to resolve the case.
Then there’s the other usage, which has much more impact on a person being charged with a crime.
A Judge’s Decision
The other case when something is withdrawn in court is when a decision is made to remove the charges entirely for someone that is accused of committing a crime. In other words, this isn’t simply removing an objectionable line of questioning, this is erasing the crime itself. There are two ways that this can work, with charges being withdrawn, or stayed.
In the case of charges being stayed, this means that the court is no longer actively pursuing a conviction in a case, and will stop prosecuting for the time being. It is, in one sense, considered a “dormant” case, but it is not outright canceled. When a court case has been stayed, this simply means that the court and the resolution of a verdict, are being put aside for now, but it is legally possible to revive the case and continue it at a later date.
Under normal circumstances, stayed charges may be “revived” within one year of the court decision, especially if another crime occurs by the defendant during that year.
When a charge is withdrawn, however, this means that the court has made the decision to drop the charges permanently, and no longer seek prosecution.
You would think that if you were in a session of court where it was ultimately decided that charges were withdrawn, this would mean your criminal record is “clean.” If anyone were to conduct a background check, they would see that you were never convicted of a crime. Technically, you would be right. If you aren’t convicted of a crime, you’ll never have a conventional criminal record with a list of offences. However, even without an actual criminal conviction, a withdrawn charge could show up when someone is reviewing a person’s criminal background information, including the arrest and fingerprinting that may have occurred.
For people that are thorough, and take the time to get the proper information of someone’s criminal history, this is not going to mean much once they understand what a record reveals. However, an arrest, with fingerprints that remains in the record does show up as a “red flag” in any conventional background check. So even if the ultimate result was that your charges were withdrawn, and you were not convicted as a criminal, your arrest itself is still on record, and can “trip alarms” for people that don’t take the extra step to read exactly what is on file on about you.
Get It Properly Cleared
If you don’t want to have any problems when it comes to jobs that require background checks, or even just crossing the border into America, you should get what is called a “file destruction” enacted on the leftovers of your case. Pardons Canada can help in this regard, giving you the advice and direction you need in ensuring that your clean record remains spotless, even to a border or background check. Contact us for more details if you need help with this.