*2023 Results: Approx. 99% of Mark Zinck's clients avoided a criminal record (conviction) for charges of theft, fraud, assault, mischief and threats.

Absolute and Conditional Discharges

Absolute and conditional discharges allow an offender to avoid a criminal record for their offense. Discharges are most common if the offender has no prior record and the circumstances/harm resulting from the offense is relatively minor. Given that a criminal record has a negative impact on an offender's ability to travel and obtain employment, obtaining a discharge for their client is a primary objective of many defence lawyers.

The difference between an absolute and conditional discharge is that an absolute discharge is granted without any conditions on the offender, while the conditional discharge requires specific terms that must be complied with in order for the discharge to be granted. Conditional discharges are much more frequently ordered than absolute discharges.

Unlike diversion programs, the Crown's consent is not required for an offender to obtain a discharge, however it is far more likely to be granted with the consent of the Crown. For this reason, it is essential to ask for a conditional discharge when discussing sentencing with the Crown prosecutor.

Conditional Discharge

If the court (judge) agrees to a conditional discharge, it means the offender must successfully complete specific conditions before the discharge is granted. Most often, this includes a period of probation that must be successfully completed.

Typical probationary conditions such as keep the peace and be of good behaviour, avoid contact with victim, avoid drugs or alcohol are commonly attached to in conditional discharges. Also, the offender may be required to pay restitution to the victim within a certain timeframe.

If the offender breaches any of the terms of probation, they risk losing the conditional discharge (thus acquiring a criminal record). Normally, the offender will have to appear in court and demonstrate they met the conditions of probation in order to obtain the discharge.

Requirements for a Discharge

The criminal code (s. 730) states a discharge is only to be granted in instances that are:

1) in the accused's best interest; and
2) in the interest of the public

Discharges, by law, are only available to crimes with no prescribed minimum penalty.

A discharge will not necessarily be granted just because the accused is a first time offender, or because the charge is relatively minor. In order for a court to grant an absolute or conditional discharge, the offender may have to work to convince the judge that it is necessary. In other words, courts will not always grant a discharge simply because it is generally accepted that a criminal record would negatively impact the offender's life.

For example, if a 65 year old on CPP is charged for the first time, the court may be reluctant to grant a discharge on grounds that it would effect his employment. The court would likely require evidence that not granting the discharge would have a specific negative impact on the accused. Further, if the offender requests a discharge because he is worried about not being able to travel to the US, the court may want specific evidence that travel to the US is necessary (to see relatives or for employment). If the offender is a truck driver and needs to enter the US regularly, he would have a much stronger argument for a discharge.

If the crown is not prepared to consent to a discharge, the offender will have to convince the court that it is justified. Sometimes the Crown will choose not to recommend a conditional discharge, but also state they are not opposed to one either.

Criminal Discharges and CPIC

Those who receive a conditional discharge ought to be aware that a record of their offense may still be listed in the CPIC database for up to three years. This means upon attempting to cross the US border the US customs service may be aware of the criminal charge/conviction (and could use this as grounds for refusal).

Offenders who receive a conditional or absolute discharge who are looking to travel to the US should confirm with CPIC that their record has been removed from the system prior to attempting to cross the border. Otherwise, they risk being denied entry and the charge being permanently retained in the US database. For more information, please see our US travel and criminal records pages.

   Call us today.

You don't have to jeopardize your future or waste thousands of dollars on excessive legal fees. We provide effective and affordable lawyer representation for those charged with criminal offences throughout Ontario, Canada.

Have a skilled criminal lawyer who focuses on criminal law protect you and your future from the stigma and consequences of a criminal record and conviction.

    call now: 647-228-5969


Your case will be defended by a fully licensed Practicing Lawyer of the Law Society of Ontario. For more information about our lawyer, click here.

We provide our clients with:
  • Flat fee pricing
  • 99%+ non-conviction success rate
  • U.S. travel advice and information
  • Help with related immigration/IRCC issues
  • Employment background check advice/services
  • Fingerprints and records destruction services
  • Clear goals of getting charges dropped and bail conditions varied without a trial
  • Vulnerable Sector records suppression help
  • Experienced, focused counsel

* Please note:

If you are not a paying client, we cannot answer questions and provide assistance about avoiding jail and/or a criminal record, employment background checks, IRCC/immigration applications and status, or travel to the U.S. in the future. This includes those who have already retained other counsel and those whose cases have already been completed.

We only can respond to calls and emails relating to current Ontario criminal cases. Please see our FAQ for a listing of the courthouses we service.

Are you a lawyer? If you are defending a criminal case and are looking for expert advice regarding possible defences, case strategies, and information release management call us at: 647-228-5969.

Please note: We do not accept legal aid certificate cases. All clients are handled on a private retainer only.

*2023 Results: the percentage of 99% of clients avoiding a criminal record (conviction) stated on this page is based solely on Lawyer Mark Zinck's personal representation of approximately 2000 criminal defence case clients as of the year 2023. Past results are not necessarily an indication of future results.


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   Criminal Information:

   We provide:
  • Flat fee pricing
  • 99%+ non-conviction success rate
  • U.S. travel advice and information
  • Help with related immigration/IRCC issues
  • Employment background check advice and services
  • Fingerprints and records destruction services
  • A clear goal of getting the charges dropped without a trial
  • Vulnerable Sector records suppression help
  • Timely resolutions
  • Lawyer/client privilege
  • Experienced, focused counsel