So you have a criminal record in Canada, and you want to know when you can start the process of applying for a pardon.
In Canada, you are eligible to receive a pardon when you have satisfied your sentence and demonstrated that you have remained of good conduct for a certain period of time, known as an eligibility period.
According to the terms of the Criminal Records Act, the length of time for which you must prove you have remained crime free and of good conduct depends on the nature of the offences for which you have been convicted.
Summary vs. Indictable Offences
In Canada, criminal offences are brought against you either summarily, or by indictment. Summary offences are minor, and indictable offences are more serious.
Some crimes in the criminal code are automatically indictable, and others automatically summary; most, however, are hybrid. Hybrid offences are those where the Crown can elect to proceed by summary or by indictment, depending on the circumstances of the case.
Therefore, in order to determine how long you must wait before applying for a pardon, you have to determine whether your last offence was brought against you by summary or by indictment. Unfortunately, this can only truly be accomplished by observing the original Court Information document held in your provincial court archives.
That being said, you can estimate most offences, with a fairly high degree of certainty, based on the type of offence and the sentence you received. Here is a useful chart of the more common offences:
Driving Under the Influence
Theft Under $5000
Fraud Under $5000
Failure to Appear
Breach of Probation
Possession for the Purpose of Trafficking
Theft Over $5000
Fraud Over $5000
Breaking and Entering
Trafficking in Narcotic/Contr. Substance
Assault Aggravated/Causing Bodily Harm
So when are you eligible to file a pardon?
Summary Offences – 3 years from the completion of your sentence
Indictable Offences – 5 years from the completion of your sentence
When have you completed your sentence?
You have completed your sentence for the purpose of eligibility when you have served any jail time, completed any probation, and paid any fines, restitutions and/or victim surcharges. Prohibition orders of your driver’s license or of firearms do not affect eligibility.
When can I begin the pardon application process?
You are only required to be eligible for the final stage of the application process: filing with the National Parole Board of Canada. There can be up to 10 months or more of work to do before you file your pardon with the board, so you can start the application before you are technically eligible.
If you are using a professional service such as Express Pardons to complete your pardon application, all of the preliminary work will be handled for you and your application will automatically be filed on the day you become eligible. In this way you will receive your pardon in the fastest time physically and legally possible.
What if I haven’t paid a court fine or restitution?
Technically, court fines and restitution orders are considered part of your sentence and therefore must be paid before you become eligible for a pardon. However, there is a limitation on how far back the board will check into payment of fines, which is 15 years. If your fines or restitutions are more than 15 years old, you are not required to demonstrate they are paid, unless they are substantial (over $5000), in which case the board may request proof of payment.
What if I have a recent Conditional Discharge?
If you have a recent conditional discharge in addition to past convictions, the discharge does not factor into your eligibility. Use your last conviction before the discharge to calculate when you are eligible for a pardon. The Board will ignore the discharge and consider the pardon for your other convictions. The conditional discharge will automatically be removed from your record 3 years after your complete the conditions given as part of the sentence.
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