If you have had your fingerprints taken you should find out if your fingerprint records can be destroyed.
It is important to ask for the record to be destroyed if you can because having these records on file can affect your life.
Only people who have been involved with the police have fingerprint records. Border guards, police officers, and others may behave differently if they have fingerprint records for you. Border guards may take longer to let you through borders. Police may spend more time with you if they ask you to pull over when you're driving.
The police will only destroy your fingerprint records and photos if you ask them to. They will keep your records until you apply to have them destroyed.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) also keep your fingerprint records. If the police approve your request to have your records destroyed, they will tell the RCMP to destroy their copy too.
If you were not convicted
You must submit your application to the local police agency where you were charged. They will only consider your request to have your fingerprint records and photos destroyed if:
- you don't have any criminal convictions
- you don't have any outstanding charges
- you were 18 years or older on the day you were arrested. There is a different procedure for youth governed by the Youth Criminal Justice Act
You must also meet one of the following conditions before they will consider having your records destroyed:
- The charges against you have been withdrawn
- You entered into a peace bond
- You received an absolute discharge or a conditional discharge
- You were found not guilty after trial
- Your charges were stayed and a year has passed since they were stayed
If you were convicted
If you were convicted of a crime, you need to have a record suspension before you apply to have your records destroyed. A record suspension used to be called a pardon. The police will not consider your request to have your records destroyed without this.
You can only apply for a record suspension if your sentence and the waiting period for your offence have both expired. Depending on your offence, your waiting time may be 5 or 10 years.
To apply for a record suspension, you must pay a fee. The parole board will decide whether to suspend your criminal record. Their decision is based on whether you've shown yourself to be a law abiding citizen.
Even if you have a record suspension, the police may decide not to destroy your records.
Let the waiting period expire
You have to wait the required amount of time before you can ask to have your fingerprints destroyed.
To find out how long you must wait before asking to have your fingerprints and photos destroyed, contact the police force that charged you.
The waiting period depends on how your case was resolved, and where you were charged. For example:
- If you entered into a peace bond, you must wait until the peace bond expires
- If you received an absolute discharge, you must wait 1 year
- If you received a conditional discharge, you must wait 3 years
Also, each location has a different waiting period. For example, the Toronto Police Service requires you to wait:
- 5 months after your last court appearance if your charges were withdrawn or stayed
- 6 months after any peace bonds have expired
When the police can refuse
If you were accused of committing a primary or secondary designated offence, the police can refuse to destroy your fingerprints and photos. The Criminal Code identifies which offences are primary and secondary designated offences.
If your offence is a primary or secondary designated offence, the court can ask for a DNA sample if you're convicted. This is because of the seriousness and circumstances of these types of offences. These offences are listed on the RCMP National DNA Data Bank website.
Primary designated offences include:
- sexual assault
- serious assaults
Secondary designated offences include:
- uttering threats
- serious drug related offences
The police can also refuse to destroy your records if they think it’s not in the public’s best interest. Their procedures do not provide more information about what this might mean. They do not explain what types of situations would not be in the public's best interest.
You can appeal a refusal to destroy fingerprints by written request. A lawyer can help you appeal the decision if there are no case specific reasons to keep your fingerprint records.