Area of Law: Criminal Records
Answer # 2200
Can USA Immigration Officers access Canadian criminal records?Region: Ontario Answer # 2200
In most cases, US Immigration Officers can access Canadian criminal records. When Canadian law-enforcement officers charge someone with a crime, they almost always take photographs and fingerprints. A copy of this local police file is then entered into the CPIC Investigative data bank. In addition, the RCMP creates its own file in the Identification data bank, where a fingerprints section number (FPS) is assigned to the person’s name and date of birth.
The RCMP’s Investigative and Identification data banks are accessible to American Customs officers through CPIC searches. The American National Crime Information Centre (NCIC) is the USA counterpart to our CPIC. When a person attempts to enter the USA, American Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) Officers have the authority to conduct a CPIC check via NCIC using the person’s name and date of birth.
If a criminal record exists in one of these data banks, the CBP Officer will discover it. Even in cases that did not result in a finding of guilt (e.g. cases that were thrown out of court or where the person was found to be innocent) and which are supposed to be restricted, the fact that a criminal record exists will be revealed because the criminal record and the person’s name and date of birth are associated with an RCMP FPS number. Where the details of the crime and the outcome are not instantly available, the simple fact that an FPS number exists is sufficient to have the file downloaded and for the person to be turned away at the border.
Many would argue that those charges that resulted in a not-guilty outcome for which disclosure is restricted are never disclosed. Although not-guilty charges do not appear on hard copy certified RCMP reports-issued for American travel purposes-those charges together with their FPS number are routinely disclosed at the border during a computer search. The CBP Officers can easily identify the FPS number and will usually tell the person some details of the information that they see-such as what the offence was, and then ask for further details. Sometimes, the CBP officer will print out parts of the criminal record information and give it to the person.
Once the American CBP officer downloads the person’s criminal record information into their system, it will be retained forever. The USA will identify the individual as being an Illegal Alien and assign a lifetime Alien Number (A#) to them. From then on, every time the person tries to cross the border, he or she will be stopped because of the criminal record.
If you have been charged with a criminal offence, refer to our criminal law section.
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