For those of you who have been charged by the police in the past and have gone through our court system, the impact on your life likely has had long lasting consequences that have extended well beyond the time the Judge declared “guilty” or “not guilty”.
The charges came during a low point in your life and were some unfortunate combination of poor decision making, bad luck, alcohol or substance abuse, fragile mental health, greed or rage. And after your case was finally resolved in court, regardless of the outcome, you probably went through a further period of low mood, poor self-esteem, fractured relationships and / or financial hardship.
But, with the healing benefits of personal introspection and the passage of time, things get better. As the sayings go, life goes on and the sun will rise again. In the words of Churchill, “success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm” and “failure is not fatal, it is the courage to continue that counts”.
To further help yourself along the road back to a better life, it is important to be proactive in preventing the past from interfering with your future.
For those with criminal records, these steps include seeking a Record Suspension and / or a U.S. Waiver.
A Record Suspension (formerly called a “pardon”) allows people who were convicted of a criminal offence to have their records taken out of the CPIC and generally not disclosed. This can be very important to many aspects of your life, including your employment, education, immigration status and ability to travel. (Interestingly, our government has just recently announced that it will make this pardon process simpler and quicker for those with past “possession of marijuana” convictions, given the recent legalization of cannabis.)
A U.S. Waiver is a document issued by the American Department of Homeland Security that grants a Canadian citizen with a criminal record entry into the United States. Obtaining this document removes the risk of being turned back at the border and is invaluable if you travel to the States for business or personal reasons.
For those who were charged by the police but ultimately not convicted (e.g. your charges were dismissed, withdrawn, stayed or you received an absolute or conditional discharge), it is advisable to make an application to have your fingerprints and photographs that were taken by the police destroyed. This is to ensure your information is not shared with other police and security agencies both in Canada and internationally and not used or accessed by various agencies for any purpose, including future criminal investigations.
The process for Record Suspensions (pardons), U.S. Waivers and applications to have fingerprints and photos destroyed all require written applications and take time to go through the waiting periods and administrative delays involved. But, the earlier you get started, the sooner the dark past will stop haunting your bright future.