Area of Law: Criminal Records
Answer # 2108
How long are criminal records kept?Region: Ontario Answer # 2108
How long criminal records are kept varies. Criminal records are created and stored by various government bodies, including charging police, courts, and the RCMP. Each of these has its own policies and retention schedules. For example, the RCMP, in most cases, retains records in its Identification Data Bank until the person reaches 80 years of age (and has had no criminal activity reported in the past 10 years). The retention schedules of other police services vary, and can be anywhere from 25 to 40 years to permanently, or until the individual reaches a certain age (usually around 80 with no criminal activity reported for at least 20 years), or if the individual is dead.
The courts also have their own record retention time frames, usually from 1 to 40 years. The criteria used to determine which time frame applies include:
- type of offence,
- disposition (outcome in court),
- the age of the individual,
- continued involvement in criminal activity,
- and so on.
In cases of convictions for serious offences, the records can be kept indefinitely. Even when the retention time frame has been met, more often than not, the record is not automatically removed. It is necessary, therefore, for the individual to take action to ensure that the criminal record is removed as soon as possible. For more information, refer to How to remove a criminal record.
Once a criminal record exists, it is up to the individual to take the proper steps to have the record removed.
If you have been charged with a criminal offence, refer to our criminal law section.
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