It’s pretty much a given that every one of us is going to make a mistake at some point in our lives.
It’s just the severity of that mistake that will differ from one person to the next. Harmless mistakes may have an impact on no one but ourselves. More serious mistakes may cost a person a relationship, or even a job. And the most severe mistakes may result in an arrest, a conviction, and serving out a sentence in jail before finally being released back into society.
But every mistake, no matter how serious, should be deemed as a permanent mark on someone that they should have to answer to forever. Even a criminal conviction can, ultimately, make a person change for the better, and become a more informed, hardworking and empathetic member of society. This is one of the reasons why the record suspension system exists; in order to make sure that people that have paid their debt to society do not suffer unfairly from that offence for the rest of their lives.
But even so, getting a record suspension isn’t easy, and there is some time that is involved before the process can be completed. But how much time, exactly? How long does a person have to wait before being able to get a record suspension?
Time Served First
There is no one universal time period that applies to every person who wishes to get a record suspension. Every person is likely to have a different amount of time required, and one of the biggest reasons for that is the initial serving of a sentence. If a person has been convicted of a criminal offence, the first requirement before even considering an application is that the sentence itself must be completely served.
This doesn’t just cover the initial sentence that is spent in jail, it applies to other matters related to the sentence. If there are any fines that need to be paid, these must also be addressed before a sentence can be considered served. If there is a probationary period required after the sentence, probation must also be seen through to completion.
It is only once all obligations to the sentence have been met, and a person is now, once again, a private citizen with no requirements to meet with law enforcement that the first step is considered complete.
The Time Fits the Crime
There are two types of offences that a record suspension can be applied towards, summary and indictable.
Summary offences are considered less serious, and in most cases, don’t require a jury present in order to have the case concluded in court. Crimes such as possession of marijuana under 30 grams, or soliciting prostitution, common assault, theft under $5000, fraud under $5000, DUI, Impaired Driving, mischief under $5000, criminal harassment, fall under summary offences. These usually involve shorter punishment terms—if a jail sentence is required at all—and lower fines.
Indictable offences are more serious crimes and come into the realm of activities like theft over $5000, fraud over $5000, drug trafficking, assault with a weapon, assault causing bodily harm, manslaughter. Here, the option for a jury trial is present, and, unsurprisingly, jail sentences and fines are much stiffer.
A Longer Wait
In the past, a person convicted of a summary criminal offence had to wait three years after the completion of the punishment before being able to apply for a record suspension. If it was an indictable offence, the wait time was five years after the completion of punishment.
This changed in 2012, and the Canadian government increased the waiting times. As of 2017, someone with a summary offence now has a waiting period of five years before being able to apply for a record suspension. Someone with an indictable offence must now wait ten years after the completion of punishment.
Applications for a record suspension for a summary offence will usually have the results of their application completed within six months. Applications for a record suspension for an indictable offence will take about one year from the acceptance of the application to the final result.
Of course, there are a lot of things that can happen between waiting for a record suspension and finally getting it. Any new arrest and criminal charge will result in “setting the clock back to zero” and you will have to start the process—and waiting—all over again. A record suspension may be denied if you are charged with a criminal offence during the application process, even if the charge is later withdrawn, dismissed, stayed, or discharged.