*2022 Results: Approx. 99% of Mark Zinck's clients avoided a criminal record (conviction) for charges of theft, fraud, assault, mischief and threats.

Record Suspension / Pardon applications in Canada

How to have your criminal record suspended (pardoned) in Canada.

If you have a Canadian criminal record (conviction) you can apply for and receive a record suspension (aka pardon) to remove it. Those who have been pardoned via a record suspension will no longer have the criminal offences they were convicted of show up on police background checks. In many cases, they will also be able to have their fingerprints destroyed and their RCMP CPIC file closed.

On job applications pardoned individuals will also be able to say that they have not been convicted of a criminal offence similar to how they would have had they never been charged with anything at all.

If you were convicted of a criminal code offence in Canada and you did not receive either an absolute or conditional discharge you currently have a criminal record that will show up on all forms of police background checks.

A criminal record can not only prevent you from getting a job. It can also cause you to be denied travel entry to the United States and other countries. If you are a Canadian immigrant, a criminal record can also impact IRCC immigration applications, possibly leading to refusals and deportation.

Those who have criminal conviction records in Canada should apply for a record suspension once they are eligible to do so. The waiting period is 5 years from the completion of the sentence if the Crown proceeds summarily (most cases) or 10 years if they proceed by indictment. Virtually all criminal records are eligible to receive a record suspension pardon except child sexual offences.

What offences are record suspensions usually granted for?

Most Criminal Code offences are eligible to receive a pardon except for those that involve child sexual abuse. This means that a pardon is likely an available option if you have been charged with:
  1. Theft under or over $5000
  2. Fraud under or over $5000
  3. Assault, assault with a weapon, aggravated assault, assault causing bodily harm
  4. DUI, impaired driving, over 80, refusal to provide breath sample
  5. Failure to comply
  6. Mischief under or over $5000, public mischief
  7. Uttering threats
  8. CDSA drug offences
  9. Breaking and entering
  10. Robbery

How do I know if I have a criminal record that needs to be pardoned via a record suspension?

If you are unsure of whether you currently have a Canadian criminal record or not the best way to find out is to apply for a background check through your local police force. Some people may have attended court many years ago and are legitimately unsure of what the outcome of their case was. They may have paid a fine and didn’t realize that a criminal record was being registered against them.

The following sentences are all criminal records in Canada and will require a record suspension pardon application to remove the conviction:
  1. Jail or prison
  2. Conditional sentence (house arrest)
  3. Suspended Sentence (probation with no conditional discharge)
  4. All fines (no matter how small)
While a person is unlikely to forget about or realize that a jail sentence is a criminal record, sometimes those sentenced to probation are unsure as to whether a discharge was also granted or not. Also sometimes people will receive a fine without realizing that it is considered a conviction and criminal record.

What are the reasons I should apply for a record suspension?

The main reasons for applying are:
  1. Wanting a clean criminal record for 3rd party employment and police background checks
  2. Reducing the likelihood of problems when travelling to the United States and other countries that Canada shares its police database information with (UK, NZ, Australia)
  3. Some professional regulatory bodies and accepted accrediting organizations may consider those with criminal records to be of poor character or ineligible to work in their chosen profession. This can include engineering (PEO), accounting (CPA), nursing (CNO), teaching (OCT), OMVIC, RECO, etc.
  4. Not wanting to have to disclose their criminal record on job and volunteer applications
  5. Avoid the social stigma and reputation of being labeled a “criminal” in Canada
There are myriad ways in which a criminal record can negatively impact a person. Whether it is a young student looking to start a new career or a retired senior looking to snowbird in the US for the winter, a Canadian criminal record can cause problems and hold people back at all points in their life. The purpose of a record suspension is to give people a second chance and the ability to move on with their life.

What is the difference between a pardon and a record suspension in Canada?

There is no difference. The official term for a pardon is a “record suspension” in Canada. In typical Canadian government fashion they decided to stop using an adequate term that everyone understood and replace it with something new and confusing. Other countries still use the term pardon and the term pardon was also previously used in Canada for decades. It is really just a matter of semantics.

Whether you want to call it a pardon or a record suspension they both refer to the same thing in Canada which is the highest level of amnesty for those convicted of criminal offences.

Who has the power to grant a record suspension in Canada?

All record suspensions (pardons) are administered by the Parole Board of Canada (PBC), which is a federal government agency. It is important to note that there seem to be a lot of individuals/organizations selling pardon services who falsely provide the people with the impression that they are affiliated with the Government or part of the application granting process. They may use names, logos, flags and other markings that resemble those used by official Canadian government agencies. These misleading business practices are widespread and well known. Only the PBC has the power to process record suspension/pardon applications. 100% of applications must be submitted to them directly.

Will a record suspension give me a completely clean criminal record? Will all my information stored in police databases such as CPIC be removed?

You will not have a criminal conviction record if you receive a record suspension. This being said, there is still information about you that will be retained by law enforcement. The police will still keep information about what you were charged with and the outcome of the case, their officer notes, and other evidence collected. The Crown Attorneys office and courts will also have documentation relating to the charges.

While this information will still exist it is not publicly accessible and generally will not show up on police background checks except for vulnerable sector searches in certain circumstances (there is a process available to try to remove this as well).

A better way of describing it is that a record suspension combined with fingerprint destruction will seal and destroy (expunge) absolutely everything that can be destroyed. It will allow you to legally say that you do not have a criminal record in Canada and that you do not have any convictions on your record. 100% of people who are eligible for a record suspension and/or fingerprint destruction should apply for it immediately.

Can I travel to the United States if I get a record suspension?

Nobody is guaranteed entry into the US except US citizens. Canadian criminal records are definitely among the most common reasons for being refused entry by US Customs (CBP). CBP mainly uses the RCMP CPIC database to search for Canadian criminal records but may also get information for local police forces (OPP, TPS, YRP etc.) as well.

US immigration law (INA) and associated CBP manuals and policies uses the language of “convicted of or admits to” a moral turpitude offence when evaluating those seeking entry. While in Canada someone who receives a record suspension is no longer considered to be convicted this does not necessarily mean the US will accept this definition. Theoretically someone could be denied for criminality even if they were accused of a crime they were not ever convicted of.

A records suspension may increase the likelihood of being allowed travel entry into the United States by US Customs at the border.

Receiving a record suspension shows US Customs that the offender has abstained from crime and has been determined to meet a somewhat high standard of rehabilitation. This is a mitigating factor that will be taken into consideration at the border. A record suspension will also close the RCMP CPIC file so that a conviction will not show up when the database is checked, however the traveler must still answer questions truthfully if asked about prior arrests, charges, etc.

Remember the local charging police force can still be contacted by US CBP for information regarding your arrest history even if a CPIC check comes back clean. US CBP may have also already downloaded data related to your arrest and conviction prior to it being removed from CPIC via the record suspension process. Lying to US Customs is not only a reason for them to deny entry, you could also be banned from US travel in the future and face criminal charges if discovered.

While there are never guarantees absent US citizenship it is strongly recommended that anyone intending to travel to the US apply for a record suspension as soon as they are eligible for it. It is better to avoid being denied entry in the first place than to be refused at the border and required to apply for a US travel waiver which requires indefinite costly renewals. Receiving a record suspension reduces the likelihood of being denied and requiring a US travel waiver. It also increases the likelihood of receiving a US travel waiver in the event that you do require one.

If I am granted a record suspension (pardon) will I be able to also have my fingerprints and mugshot destroyed?

You often can but it depends. It should first be noted that nobody in Canada has an absolute right to have their fingerprints destroyed. Even those who are falsely accused and acquitted do not have a right of fingerprint destruction. You do not have a right to have your fingerprints destroyed even if you are granted a record suspension. This being said, most Canadian police forces do have policies that allow for those who have received a record suspension to have their fingerprints destroyed in some cases.

Most police forces will require a formal application for fingerprint destruction to be submitted. Application processing times can vary. Some police forces charge for this, others do not. Some also will refuse fingerprint destruction for primary and secondary designated offences, such as crimes involving extreme violence and child sexual abuse. You will need to check with the police force that fingerprinted you to determine what your options are because they all operate differently.

Apart from the type of offence being classified as too serious, fingerprint destruction applications are sometimes refused for other reasons such as:
  1. Pending charges awaiting disposition
  2. History of mental health or suicide attempts
  3. Family court restraining orders
  4. A police history of using other names or aliases
  5. Offences being committed in front of children
The police will sometimes refuse to destroy fingerprints of someone who is “known to police” even if they have received a record suspension or were not convicted.

What if the police refuse to destroy my fingerprints?

If a police force refuses your fingerprint destruction application you usually can appeal this decision. If your appeal fails, you can apply for a judicial review of the decision to have a judge decide instead of government bureaucrats.

As far as we know there are no police forces in Canada that will destroy a person’s fingerprints if they have a criminal conviction and have not received a record suspension. Applying for a record suspension is always the first step in the fingerprint destruction process if you have been previously convicted at any point as an adult.

If I can’t get my fingerprints destroyed should I still apply for a record suspension?

Yes you absolutely should still apply. Just because the police have your fingerprints does not mean that you have a criminal record. Having your fingerprints taken is not what shows up on a police background check, but convictions do. If you receive a record suspension you will have a clean criminal record check even if the police refuse to destroy your fingerprints.

It may take a little longer for those with fingerprints in CPIC to receive a criminal record check back from the police after applying because they normally will be required to submit fingerprints for analysis prior to receiving the result (which should be clean if granted a record suspension). It is important to note that this additional step of sending in fingerprints may also be required of those who have never been charged with anything before but share a similar name and date of birth with a convicted criminal.

If you believe you are eligible to receive a record suspension and/or to have your fingerprints destroyed and are looking for a lawyer to assist you please give us a call today.

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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.

*2022 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 2022. Past results are not necessarily an indication of future results.


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   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