A criminal record can severely hinder your access to jobs, education and scholarship opportunities, public assistance, and housing. In some instances, a criminal record can even affect your child’s well-being. Furthermore, an arrest record can have a lasting impact even if you are acquitted.

While expungement may help solve these problems, the process can be tedious and complicated. Furthermore, the rules for destroying, erasing, and sealing criminal records are constantly changing. Effective legal representation can be invaluable, so consider contacting a criminal lawyer in Vancouver to guide you through the process.

Below, we discuss the possible outcomes of criminal charges and the steps needed to clear your criminal record in each situation.

Not-Guilty Outcomes

Were you facing criminal charges that were later dismissed or withdrawn, or did you receive a not-guilty verdict at trial? You may be surprised to learn that there might still be a record of your arrest and charges when a criminal background check is conducted.

While you can request that these records be destroyed, bear in mind that the decision lies with the local police service that laid the charges. To determine whether to destroy your records, they will consider factors like the nature of the offence and other charges on your record.

If your request is granted, the police will destroy your fingerprints and photographs on file and destroy or seal the not-guilty outcome records. In most instances, they will also ask the RCMP to return its copy of the criminal record file for destruction.

Generally, it takes three to 18 months for records to be completely destroyed. Once the process is completed, no one can access the records again.

Absolute and Conditional Discharges

The judge may grant you a discharge, which means that although you were not convicted, there is some perceived guilt, and you will still have a criminal record.

There are two types of discharges: absolute and conditional. With an absolute discharge, you will not carry out a sentence or condition. Conversely, a conditional discharge means you must meet a condition, usually probation or a small fine.

The RCMP is expected to purge discharges automatically, but it is a good idea to follow up with them. However, with the local police service, discharges – like non-guilty outcomes – are destroyed at their discretion. You will have a year to request the erasure of absolute discharges and three years for conditional discharges. These waiting periods commence on the final court date.


If a jury returns a guilty verdict, your criminal lawyer will advise you to apply for a record suspension after completing your sentence. A record suspension is a pardon to remove your criminal record from public access. They are awarded by the Parole Board of Canada.

It is important to note that most criminal offences are eligible for a record suspension. The exceptions are:

  • Sexual offences involving persons under the age of 18
  • Cases where someone was convicted of more than three offences, each of which either was prosecuted by indictment or is a serious offence that is subject to a maximum punishment of life in prison and for each of which the person was sentenced to a two-year prison sentence or longer

Your Criminal Lawyer in Vancouver

Clearing a criminal record lets you put the past behind you and make a fresh start. It can give you a clean slate, peace of mind, and the freedom to pursue career opportunities and access services otherwise unavailable with a criminal record.

Tom Doust is a criminal lawyer in Vancouver with 20 years of experience. He can help you successfully navigate the process of clearing your criminal record. Call (604) 618-7994 today or complete our online contact form to book a free consultation.