In Canada, a Discharge Without Conviction is a finding of guilty where the court does not enter a conviction against the offender. The offender is then released and given a chance to rebuild their life. A discharge is usually granted to first-time offenders and those with minimal criminal records who have been convicted of less serious offences.
There are two types of discharges in Canada: absolute and conditional. An absolute discharge is granted where the court is satisfied that the offender is unlikely to reoffend. A conditional discharge is granted where the court believes that the offender is likely to reoffend but is willing to give them a second chance. The conditions of a conditional discharge may include attending counselling or treatment, performing community service, or abstaining from alcohol or drugs.
Understandably, many people believe that a discharge without conviction is equivalent to being found not guilty. However, this is not the case. A finding of guilt is recorded on an individual's criminal record even if they are given a discharge without conviction. This means that the offence will appear on background checks performed by potential employers, landlords, or educational institutions. As such, it is important to understand the implications of a discharge before making the decision to accept one.
What is Recorded on Your Criminal Record After a Discharge?
In Canada, there are three types of criminal records: summary conviction, indictable conviction, and dual proceedings. A summary conviction is typically handed down for less serious offences such as common assault or theft under $5,000. An indictable conviction is usually given for more serious offences such as aggravated assault or fraud over $5,000. Dual proceedings refer to when an individual can be charged with both an indictable and summary offence stemming from the same incident. For example, someone who assaults another person while committing robbery would be charged with both an indictable offence of robbery and a summary offence of assault.
A discharge without conviction would typically be given for summary offences but can also be given for indictable offences in certain circumstances. When an absolute discharge is handed down for an indictable offence, no criminal record is created. However, when a conditional discharge is given for an indictable offence, it will appear on an individual's criminal record as a "conditional sentence order." This will appear on background checks performed by potential employers or landlords but will disappear from an individual's record after a set period of time if they abide by the conditions set by the court.
The Consequences of Having a Criminal Record
Having any type of criminal record—even if it just appears as a "conditional sentence order"—can have significant implications for an individual's life. It can make it difficult to find employment or housing, as potential employers or landlords may view you as being higher risk than someone without a criminal record. It can also make it difficult to travel outside of Canada; some countries will not allow entry to individuals with criminal records, regardless of how minor the offence may be.
Deciding whether or not to accept a discharge without conviction should not be taken lightly. It is important to speak with a lawyer beforehand so that you can fully understand what implications it may have on your future prospects.
Conclusion: If you are facing charges and have been offered a discharge without conviction, it is important that you understand what this means for your future before making any decisions about whether or not to accept it.. Deciding whether or not to accept a discharge should not be taken lightly; speak with a lawyer beforehand so that you can make an informed decision about what course of action would be best for you and your future prospects.."