In the past, if you ended up on the wrong side of the law in Canada and wanted to get your life back on track, the ultimate goal would be a Pardon. Your record would be sealed; you were forgiven for your transgression, and you were integrated back into society as a law-abiding citizen. Today, that process isn’t quite so clear, as the term “record suspension” has entered the criminal justice landscape.
Many people want to know the difference between the two, and which one they should seek to have the best chance of moving forward, but the reality is, they are one in the same. The word “Pardon” no longer exists in the Canadian legal system, as it was replaced with “Record Suspension”.
When a Pardon Became a Record Suspension
The change from Pardon to Record Suspension took place in March of 2012, with the Conservative government leading the initiative. Pardons are granted in many legal systems throughout the world, and Canada stands out as having a legal system that no longer grants pardons in their internationally recognized form.
Why the Change?
The switch from the word Pardons to Record Suspensions was made as an effort to get tougher on crime in Canada. Many in government believed that the term “Pardon” was too forgiving.
With the move to the name Record Suspensions, someone that has committed a criminal offence in Canada and served their sentence can now have their record “suspended”. Like a pardon, a Record Suspension is not permanent if the person in question doesn’t continue to obey the laws of the land. Rather than being completely forgiven and left to their own devices, individuals are now forgiven, but all is not forgotten, and they must stay out of trouble, or the suspension can be removed.
Changes in Eligibility
The new term also facilitated changes to the eligibility requirements, making the application process more complex and time-consuming. If you were convicted of a summary offence, you need to wait for five years before you can apply for a Record Suspension (versus only 3 years wait before the legislation change). Summary offences include things like DUI, disorderly conduct, assault, simple possession, mischief, and theft or fraud under $5,000.
If you were convicted of an indictable offence, then you can’t apply for a record suspension until you have served your sentence and been of good behaviour for ten years. Indictable offences include aggravated assault or assault causing bodily harm, possession for the purpose of trafficking, robbery, breaking and entering, and fraud or theft over $5,000.
Still Worth the Effort
Even with more stringent rules in place and a tougher stance on crime, it’s still worth seeking a Record Suspension in Canada if you have been convicted of a crime and served your sentence. When your application is approved, your conviction is no longer part of the Canadian Police Information Center database, and the record is sealed. As long as you don’t commit additional offences, the record will remain sealed, and you can get on with your life.
Getting Help with the Process
Since the Pardons process has changed so much, it’s always wise to get some professional help when seeking a Record Suspension. The application process is far more subjective than it was under the pardon system, and you don’t want to risk being denied simply because you are unfamiliar with how to navigate the Record Suspension system.
Your application must be completed correctly, and errors or incomplete sections will result in a delay or denial. Since most people are applying for a Record Suspension to move forward with their lives, free from their criminal record, it’s important to do it right. Contact us today for more information on the Record Suspension process, and find out how we can help.