Dropped charges or dismissed cases do NOT wipe your record completely clean as if nothing happened – not on its own. Even by simply being charged with a criminal offence in the first place, your record is permanently altered. If you are charged with any offences such as assault, threatening, or mischief and your fingerprints are taken, they are indefinitely kept by the local Police force. They are also distributed via the RCMP to the federal CPIC databases, where they become accessible by any Police force throughout Canada, the US, and other nations.
Crossing the US Border
If you have been charged and/or booked with a criminal offence and your fingerprints or photographs were taken, US Customs will still have access to your previous arrest information on record, regardless of the final result of your charges. US Customs has complete authority in terms of who they allow past the border. This means that even if your record reflects that the charges were dropped, dismissed, or resulted in a conditional or absolute discharge, US Customs is only concerned that anything was laid against you in the first place. As such, any prior arrest, charge, or 911 call record means that you are at risk to be denied entry. US Customs Officials do not need to see a conviction to bar a Canadian access to their country.
Vulnerable Sector Employment
Often times, employers within the Vulnerable Sector (i.e. jobs that work with children, the disabled, and the elderly) will request a more intensive background check than just the regular Police check. These “Police Information” checks provide information about any prior charges attached to your name, even those that did not result in convictions. Police Information checks can also sometimes show pieces of information about you, even if you were not ultimately charged with anything. If investigations were conducted into a possible sexual offence, a theft, or a violent or threatening domestic crime, this information can still be released in your vulnerable sector background check. Employers can discover if you were ever criminally investigated, even if you were never charged or convicted. Dropped charges, dismissed charges, or any arrest existing in the first place can all be brought to light by a vulnerable sector background check.
What Can Be Done
There are certain initiatives that can be taken to reduce the roadblocks of having this information on your record and having it available.
- A request can be made to have the fingerprints and/or photographs from the arrest that are stored in the local police, RCMP, and CPIC databases destroyed. If the circumstances surrounding your arrest are accepted, your fingerprints and/or photographs destruction will be successful.
- Court documentation that proves the case has been dismissed or withdrawn can be provided if asked by US Customs or potential employers.
- A request can be made to have access documentation that supresses certain non-conviction information found on background checks.
The Canadian criminal justice system is specifically designed to deter crime, and as a result, it can be difficult to have an arrest record or a criminal record returned to the state it was in before the arrest occurred. Although some traces of information can remain, the Canadian law allows the opportunity to keep that information private and secure for those willing to take the appropriate initiatives. Many convictions can be sealed as such under the Canadian Pardon or Record Suspension laws to limit public access to a prior conviction. Withdrawn or dismissed charges, as well as conditional or absolute discharges that continue to remain on your record can also be sealed by a record purge.
In order to remove the obstacles that an actual criminal conviction can impose on your life, however, obtaining a Canadian pardon is a necessary step.