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How Does a Criminal Record in Canada Affect Me?

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5 months ago

If you are arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol and/or drugs in Canada, you face significant penalties if convicted of the charges in court. Most Greater Toronto Area clients who seek the expertise of the criminal defence lawyers of TorontoDUI express concerns about the impact these penalties might have on them. In particular, they worry about the possible suspension of their driver’s license, fines, mandatory participation in alcohol education/treatment programs, and big hikes to their auto insurance premiums.

However, relatively few clients express initial concern about the permanent criminal record that comes with a DUI conviction. Many don’t realize that DUI is a criminal offence, while others don’t realize how a criminal record can negatively impact many elements of their life. Given these significant impacts, we thought it would be a good idea to review how getting a criminal record in Canada will affect you.

Legal Implications of a Criminal Record

From a legal perspective, a criminal record is a black mark that courts and other government entities can use against you. If you are convicted of subsequent criminal offences, the existing criminal record will aggravate during sentencing, encouraging the judge to impose harsher penalties. Your criminal record can also play a role in family law issues, as it will be assessed by the judge making decisions on child custody and visitation rights. A criminal record can also be used as grounds for denying child adoptions.

Criminal Record Impacts on Employment and Education

Many Canadian companies require criminal record checks and policies that may restrict hiring people with criminal records. While some provinces have laws prohibiting many private-sector employers from denying employment based solely on a criminal record, a company can always find other excuses to reject applicants with a criminal history. Government agencies can deny employment to those with criminal records, and many professions have licensing requirements that include having a clean criminal record. For example, the Law Society of Ontario’s licensing protocols include a Good Character Requirement that bars licensing of applicants with criminal records and can lead to disbarment of active lawyers who are criminally convicted.

Licensing for doctors, dentists, pharmacists, engineers, and other professions have similar professional codes that can derail an applicant with a criminal record. Similarly, some higher education institutions have barriers that prevent those with a criminal record from seeking a degree in specific disciplines.

Canadian Residency Imperiled, Travel Restricted

A criminal conviction imposes a significant threat to you if you’re not a Canadian citizen. If you don’t have permanent residency status, say goodbye because the federal government will deport you. If you have legal residency, you still face the risk of losing your status and getting deported if the conviction represents “serious criminality.” This is defined under Section 36 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act as:

  • A criminal conviction that carries a maximum punishment of 10 years or more imprisonment.
  • Criminal sentencing that imposes an imprisonment term longer than six months.
  • A conviction of an offence outside of Canada that would carry a maximum punishment of 10 years or more imprisonment under Canadian law.
  • Committing a criminal act in another country that, if committed in Canada, carries a maximum punishment of at least 10 years imprisonment.

A criminal record also limits your ability to visit the U.S. and other countries. U.S. immigration laws are restrictive about letting anyone with a criminal record enter their country. Entry is generally denied to those with multiple criminal convictions and those whose criminal conviction resulted in five or more years of imprisonment. Border agents can also deny access to those convicted of DUI and moral turpitude offences involving drugs, alcohol, sex, gambling, and related crimes.

Avenues for Criminal Record Removal

While criminal records in Canada are technically permanent, there are several avenues for getting one removed or suspended. Before sentencing, your lawyer should strive to encourage the Crown and judge to agree to a sentence that includes a discharge. Judges will often approve a discharge for first-time, low-level offenders who do not represent a distinct threat to the public. The criminal records of those sentenced with an absolute discharge are automatically removed after one year if the offender does not commit additional crimes. If you’re sentenced with a conditional discharge, the criminal record is automatically removed after three years.

Absent a discharge, Canadian law allows most offenders to apply to the Parole Board of Canada for a record suspension, which the government also calls a “pardon.” Certain offences—including sex crimes against children—are not eligible for a pardon.

The program generally allows those convicted of a summary conviction offence to apply five years after completing all terms of their sentence and those convicted of an indictable offence to apply after 10 years. To apply, applicants must truthfully fill out a detailed application form and submit it with various supporting materials and a $50 processing fee. Supporting materials include:

  • Criminal record(s)
  • Court information
  • Local police records
  • Identity documents
  • Fingerprints
  • Military Conduct information
  • Other forms, depending upon the offence

Once the parole board approves a record suspension, the criminal record can only be accessed with permission from the public safety minister, based on the “interests of the administration of justice” or the safety and security of the country and/or its allies.

Avoid the Criminal Record That Comes with a DUI Conviction

DUI might seem like a relatively minor offence, especially when compared to more significant crimes that involve violence, property damage, or financial harm. However, DUI is a criminal offence in Canada, which carries a criminal record among numerous other penalties upon conviction. Given the significant impacts a criminal record can have on your life, you should never try to move on by just pleading guilty to the charges. Instead, consult with the most experienced DUI criminal defence lawyer you can find. With over 15 years of successfully defending thousands of GTA clients from DUI-related charges, contact TorontoDUI for a free consultation.

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