730. (1) Where an accused, other than an organization, pleads guilty to or is found guilty of an offence, other than an offence for which a minimum punishment is prescribed by law or an offence punishable by imprisonment for fourteen years or for life, the court before which the accused appears may, if it considers it to be in the best interests of the accused and not contrary to the public interest, instead of convicting the accused, by order direct that the accused be discharged absolutely or on the conditions prescribed in a probation order made under subsection 731(2).
Though not a conviction, it is still evidence of guilt because the accused ”pleads guilty to or is found guilty of an offence.” An absolute discharge will appear on your criminal record for one year and a conditional discharge will appear on your criminal record for 3 years. If you fail to meet the conditions, the discharge may be revoked and you could be subsequently convicted.
CAUTION: The discharge will show up in employment pre-screening or at U.S. border crossings during the one or three year period that the discharge appears on your record. And, if your discharge is not automatically purged after the one or three year period, the discharge will appear on your record until you write to the RCMP to have it purged. SEE HOW TO PURGE A DISCHARGE. (Under Absolute and conditional discharges heading)
Having a conditional discharge can affect you the following ways:
Many people assume that a Conditional Discharge is not a ‘conviction’. They are right–it is not a conviction. But, the question should not be ‘is it a conviction’? Rather, the question should be ‘does it constitute a criminal record’? Arguably, a criminal record is any information on file pertaining to a person that is related to a criminal charge, that resulted in a conviction, stay of proceedings, withdrawn, conviction, discharge or that was dealt with by way of alternative measures that may negatively reflect upon their character. For so long as there is any kind of information on record which is associated with your name and date of birth, it could by definition constitute a type of criminal record, even though no criminal conviction may have resulted.
Many people do not understand that by negotiating or accepting a conditional discharge that it is the interpretation of the Criminal Code that there has been an admission or finding of guilt. Had they clearly understood this, they may instead have fought the charge in hopes of a ‘not guilty’ sentence.
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