Quebec 2013_164

View while sitting in the outdoor hydrotherapy area near a creek with snow on the ground at the hydrotherapy spa – Station Blu in the Quebec Region north of Quebec City.

You’ve probably heard of the concept of getting a pardon for one’s crimes, right? Known in Canada as a records suspensions, pardons are essentially a fresh start in many ways for someone who has been convicted of a crime. But what makes a person eligible for a suspension? Truthfully, it’s a combination of factors. Things such as good conduct following arrest and sentencing, serving of the full terms of sentencing (incarceration, restitution, parole, etc.) and the nature of the crime itself all go into determining who is eligible for a record suspension.

Under current federal law in Canada, almost anyone can apply for a pardon. To understand eligibility, it’s necessary to first understand the way in which crimes are categorized in Canada. There are three categories under which crimes can fall: summary offenses, indictable offenses, and hybrid offenses.

Summary offenses

These are the lesser offenses in terms of seriousness, the kinds of offenses that may be called misdemeanors on television crime shows. This includes things like soliciting a prostitute and some cases of theft. These cases are tried only before a judge, not a jury. Those who have been convicted of a summary offense are eligible to apply for a suspension between 3 and 5 years following the serving of their sentence and parole, depending on the seriousness of the offense.

Indictable offenses

These are the most serious of crimes, such as murder, sexual assault, etc. These offenders are tried by both a judge and a jury, and those found guilty can apply for a pardon ten year after the full carrying out of their sentence.

Once the waiting period is up following the serving of one’s sentence, he or she can apply for a records suspension. To be approved, the offender will have to prove that he has been “of good conduct” in the years between conviction and the application for the records suspension. What’s more, he will have to also prove that obtaining a pardon is absolutely necessary to their starting over and rehabilitating after their release from custody. These benefits can include things like the ability to apply for a job, securing volunteer positions, and obtaining housing.

If the application for a records suspension is approved, the offender’s criminal record is effectively sealed off from general criminal background checks such as would be performed by a potential employer or landlord. One important exception is in the case of sex offenders. Even if they are granted the suspension, they will still be red flagged in some situations. For example, if a convicted sex offender was to apply for a job in which he would be in close contact with what is known as a “vulnerable” sector of the population (children, for example) his record will show up in a background check even if he has been granted a pardon. That information would not be available to employers or landlords, however.

Those committed of certain offenses (such as sexual crimes involving a child) are not eligible for records suspensions.