Area of Law: Criminal Law
Answer # 783
Youth criminal recordsRegion: Ontario Answer # 783
A young person’s criminal record is supposed to be confidential, and not normally available to the public. Under the law, most youth records maintained by the RCMP must eventually be sealed, removed, or destroyed. It is important to note, however, that until the retention period has expired, criminal records at the RCMP which are supported by the young person’s fingerprints, are often accessible by computer at the American border by U.S.A. immigration officers. Also, if the young person commits a crime as an adult, the youth record may get ‘locked in’ and become part of the adult record. If this is the case, the youth record will be treated as an adult record and a record suspension (formally referred to as a pardon) will be required to remove the conviction.
Youth criminal records are retained for specific periods of time as determined by the Youth Criminal Justice Act. The time frame for which the records are accessible is called the period of access. With certain exceptions, after the expiry of these time limits, often called the non-disclosure date, a young person’s criminal record cannot be disclosed to anyone, and must be removed, and in some cases destroyed. The waiting times that must pass until the nondisclosure dates are reached depends on the outcome of the charges.
The records of convictions for indictable offences, which are serious offences including violent and sexual offences, are active (or accessible) for five (5) years after the sentence (including jail time and/or probation) has been satisfied. The records are then transferred to the RCMP National Repository of Criminal Records, which is Canada’s special repository of criminal records relating to individuals that have been charged with indictable and/or hybrid offences. Once a young person’s information is removed from the RCMP’s active data bank to the special repository it cannot be accessed by law enforcement agencies.
Records of convictions for less serious summary offences, are removed three (3) years after the sentence has been satisfied.
If a young person commits a subsequent summary or indictable offence before the access periods have expired, the retention period for all offences will begin again. Once the retention period for the new offence has expired, the records are then transferred to the special repository.
Acquittals and charges that are dismissed, withdrawn or stayed
If the young person is acquitted, the period of access is two months from the time allowed for the Crown to make an appeal, or if an appeal is held, three months after all appeal proceedings are completed.
If the young person is found not guilty and the charge is dismissed or withdrawn, the period of access is two months after the court decision. If the charges were stayed, the period of access is one year from the final court date.
Absolute and conditional discharges
If found guilty and given an absolute discharge, the young person’s record is transferred to the special repository one (1) year from the date of sentence. Where a young person is found guilty and is given a conditional discharge, their record is transferred to the special repository three (3) years from the date of sentence.
Removal of youth criminal records
Although RCMP youth records must be sealed or destroyed according to section 128 of the Youth Criminal Justice Act, the records of a young person can often remain in court files, in local police reports, and in the files of others involved in the supervision or care of a young person, such as a school or training facility. According to the Act, a person, agency, or government office that has created its own youth criminal record file may, at their discretion, keep these records for as long as they wish, or remove or destroy them at any time. To ensure that a youth record has been removed, therefore, it is in the young person’s best interest to contact all the known places where the record may exist and request that it be destroyed.
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