Understanding what you can remove from your criminal record

They don't call this the information age for nothing. In mere seconds, pages upon pages of details on everything imaginable are instantly available. While obtaining these various particulars is a great thing in terms of learning and education, the internet also makes it easier for acquaintances, employers and others to learn information about you that you'd like to keep personal.

Perhaps nothing is more personal than whether you've broken the law. Depending on what the circumstances were at the time, such as if you pleaded guilty or were charged for a crime but not convicted, these instances can go on your criminal history. Employers can then use databases to find out more about the nature of the illegal action committed and whether you were formally charged.

So it raises the question: How do you go about removing a criminal record so you can move forward and prevent the past from jeopardising your future? There's no one single answer. But before we get into the specifics, you may wonder how you can even check your criminal history.

If you've had dealings with the law – whether criminal, civil or traffic-related, for example – the incident in question may appear on your background. It's not a guarantee. The only way to know for sure is by seeing for yourself. However, you'll need to do more than searching for it in Google or some other online search engine. The quickest, most comprehensive method is by going to your local police station and formally requesting a copy. There are forms to fill out and there's usually a fee.

It's possible that you may not even have a criminal record, even if you've pleaded guilty for the incident and the court accepted it. In short, don't make assumptions about your criminal record. Speak to a lawyer so you know your rights.

Young lawyer reading paperwork. Talk to a lawyer if you're confused about what appears on your criminal record and what's removable.

Secondly, it's helpful to understand what removal – or expungement, to use the more technical term – actually means. According to Queensland law, a criminal record may be considered expunged even if it still shows up on your criminal record. This means that it's illegal for an employer to exclude you from consideration for a job if it can be established that a conviction was cleared. The only way to know for sure is to apply with the Department of Justice and Attorney General. They're the ultimate decision maker as to what can and can't be removed from the record.

However, if you'd like to consult with a lawyer before applying, we'd be happy to help here at Russo Lawyers. Success depends on when the offence occurred and whether it was considered an eligible offence, as defined under the Expungement Act of 2019.

Patience pays off

As previously referenced, whether you have a criminal record or not largely hinges on whether there was a conviction and when the incident in question occurred. In other words, expungement from the record may only be possible after a certain amount of time has gone by between now and then. This is otherwise known as the rehabilitation period. Just how much time must go by varies quite a bit, so be sure to talk to a lawyer for more specific details. For example, the rehabilitation period for domestic violence convictions typically lasts longer than for those where you were tried and convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol.

Prison cellHow long a conviction remains on your history may in part depend on your prison sentence.

The length of jail time plays a role

Some operate under the false assumption that since they were placed in jail for a specific conviction, the incident will stay on their criminal record forever. That's simply not the case, which again is why it's so important to know your rights. For example, if your jail sentence was for less than 30 months, it will go away on its own. 

How long this is not only depends on where the alleged criminal action took place. For instance, if you were convicted in the Supreme or district court as an adult in Queensland, the period is 10 years. In other instances, it's five years. It may be longer than that, though, if restitution was ordered to be paid and it wasn't.

Similarly, for Commonwealth-related offences that occurred while you were a child (under the age of 18), the time that must pass is confined to five years.

The tricky part of all this is that even if you successfully remove an incident from your record, you may still need to mention it. For example, if you were ever found guilty or charged with breaking the law and are asked about this, you still need to affirm that you did even though it was expunged.

Queensland law is complicated. But at Russo Lawyers, we can help put the law on your side so you know your rights and put yourself in the best possible position to succeed. If you have questions about this or anything else pertaining to legal services, please contact us for a no obligation consultation.

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