The Difference Between Criminal Convictions & Non-Convictions

By 28 February 2017May 16th, 2023No Comments

Although an individual’s criminal convictions & non-convictions are both a component of an individual’s entire criminal record, there are differences between the two.

A non-conviction record, sometimes called a police record, is a listing of an individual’s interactions with police, including charges that have been dismissed or withdrawn. Whereas a criminal conviction record more commonly refers to charges for which you have received a formal conviction.

Here is some more information about both criminal convictions & non-conviction records and more importantly, how to prevent these records from affecting your job opportunities, travel plans, or immigration status in Canada.

Criminal Convictions

A person who is found guilty of a criminal offence will receive a conviction, which will be stated on their criminal record.

The following penalties may appear on a criminal record:

  • A term of imprisonment;
  • A fine;
  • A conditional sentence, which is to be served within the community;
  • A suspended sentence with probation;

A criminal conviction will remain on a person’s criminal record forever until they apply for and receive a Pardon, also known as a record suspension. There is no period of time in which convictions are removed or erased automatically.  For example, an individual with a criminal conviction from 40 years ago will still have a visible criminal record until they have been Pardoned.


A non-conviction record, or a standard police record, is a record of a person’s involvement in any court proceeding or police interaction in which no official convictions resulted. This includes dismissed, not guilty, withdrawn or stayed charges, as well as discharges or apprehensions under mental health investigations.

Obtaining a Pardon is not necessary for an individual that has ONLY non-conviction records, but there is still a request that can be made to remove police records, fingerprints and photographs. Contact Pardon Applications of Canada to initiate a Non-Conviction Purge application.

When To Apply for a Record Suspension

However, regardless of how many non-convictions an individual has, as soon as there is at least one official criminal conviction, only a Pardon (record suspension) will seal this record from public visibility forever.  Without doing so, a criminal record can have the following negative impacts:

  • A criminal record can prevent you from legally travelling outside the country;
  • A criminal record can make it difficult to find employment, or be bondable;
  • A criminal record can make it difficult to register for school, adopt, or apply for housing;
  • A criminal record can jeopardize your immigration, refuge or permanent resident status.

If you find yourself in any of those situations, apply now to separate your criminal record from public accessibility. Or, find out if you’re eligible for a pardon today to start the process of applying for your record suspension.

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