When you are charged with a criminal offence you will also be fingerprinted at some point in time, whether it is while you are being held for a bail hearing or sometime after you have been released from the police station.
The police have an absolute right to take your fingerprints if you have been charged with a criminal offence and the police will keep a record of your fingerprints unless you apply to have them destroyed. In addition to the local police retaining your fingerprint records, you can expect that the RCMP will also retain these records unless you request that they also be destroyed. You should be aware that in order to get the RCMP to destroy fingerprint records, you need to apply to the local police agency where you were charged and arrange for that police agency to make a formal request to the RCMP to have your records destroyed. The RCMP will not destroy your fingerprint records on your own request or on the request of your lawyer.
There are a limited number of circumstances where a local police agency will agree to destroy your fingerprint records. However, if you are convicted of a criminal offence then the police will absolutely not destroy your fingerprints unless you have received a pardon or a record suspension, and even a pardon or record suspension is not a guarantee that the police will destroy your fingerprint records. The circumstances where you can request the police to destroy fingerprint records are when the charges against you have been withdrawn by the Crown Attorney, you entered into a peace bond, the judge ordered an absolute or a conditional discharge, or you have been found not guilty after trial.
How the criminal charges against you were resolved and what jurisdiction you were charged in will determine when you are eligible to apply to have you fingerprints destroyed. For example, where your criminal charges were withdrawn by the Crown Attorney in the Toronto jurisdiction, you must wait at least 5 months before applying for fingerprint destruction. If you do not wait 5 months, your application will not be processed and you will have to reapply once again after 5 months have elapsed since your charges were withdrawn. Where you entered into a peace bond you must wait until the peace bond has expired. Where you received an absolute discharge (a finding of guilt but no conviction) you must wait one year before applying to have your fingerprints destroyed. Where you received a conditional discharge, you have to wait 3 years before you can apply.
Other jurisdictions have different timelines and different requirements before they will agree to destroy your fingerprint records. The York Regional Police do not require any waiting period if your charges were withdrawn, you were found not guilty or you entered into a peace bond. In these circumstances you can apply immediately to have your fingerprint records destroyed. However, where you received an absolute discharge, you must wait one year before applying, and you have to wait 3 years after receiving a conditional discharge.
Once you have waited the required period of time, you should consider applying right away to have your fingerprints destroyed as it can be a lengthy process. In the Toronto jurisdiction, it can up to 9 months before someone has reviewed your application. Once someone has had an opportunity to review your application, it can then take up to 6 months before you receive a letter indicating that the process has begun to destroy your fingerprints. It can take an additional 6 months before you hear that your fingerprints have been destroyed. In total you can expect the process to take 1-2 years before your fingerprints are destroyed and you have received written confirmation.
You should also be aware that just because you apply to have your fingerprints destroyed does not guarantee the police are going to destroy them. Pursuant to the Toronto Police Services Board Policy and Directions, the police can refuse to destroy fingerprint records where the alleged offence is a primary or a secondary offence under s. 487.04 of the Criminal Code of Canada. Many of the very serious criminal offences, including most sexual related offences and serious assaults are considered primary designated offences. Some of the secondary offences under this section include assault, uttering threats, and some of the more serious drug related offences.
The Toronto police directive also allows the police to refuse to destroy fingerprint records where the police find that there are compelling reasons that are in the public interest to refuse destruction. Not surprisingly, the directive does not list what might be considered compelling reasons that are in the public interest.
There can also be a cost associated with applying to have your fingerprint records destroyed. For example, the Durham Regional Police charge a $50 processing fee, which does not guarantee that your fingerprints will be destroyed but only that your application will be processed. In these circumstances make sure you have waited the required period of time before applying or you may have to submit another application and pay another processing fee.
You can visit the website of the local police agency to obtain the appropriate application form and instructions on how to apply. Arranging to have your fingerprint records destroyed can be a lengthy proposition, so contact me today to start the application process.