Clarity Law

Specialist Criminal Law Firm Queensland
Thursday, 11 January 2024 17:15

How long do criminal convictions stay on my record?

Written by

How long do criminal convictions stay on my record

When a court finds someone guilty of an offence that court has a discretion whether to record a conviction or not. In that case, the Court will consider, according to the provisions of section 12 of the Penalties and Sentences Act, whether or not to do so. If the Court does not record the conviction, then it will not appear on a standard police check.

This short article, however, is more concerned with how long a conviction will stay on your record if a conviction is recorded or in other words when is a conviction “spent” in Queensland?

To find that out, we look at the Criminal Law (Rehabilitation of Offenders) Act 1986.

 

The rehabilitation period

The act refers to a ‘rehabilitation period’, which means a person need not disclose, or agencies (such as police) must not disclose, a previously recorded conviction after a certain period, as explained below.

 

How long will a criminal conviction in the Magistrates Court last?

The rehabilitation period for a summary offence, that is, an offence dealt with in the Magistrates Court, a conviction will not remain visible on your record 5 years from the date of the conviction. This is so long as no other offences have been committed in the meantime.

 

How long will a criminal conviction in the District or Supreme Court last?

The rehabilitation period for an indictable offence, that is, an offence dealt with in the District or Supreme Court, a conviction will not remain visible on your record 10 years from the date of the conviction so long as no other offences have been committed in the meantime.

 

Will the fact I was sentenced to prison affect the time the conviction remains on my record?

Possibly, a conviction will remain on your record forever if you were sentenced to a term of imprisonment for the offence, with time actually served. Otherwise, where you have been sentenced to a term of imprisonment of 30 months or less.

 

What exceptions to the normal rules exist?

There are multiple other exceptions however with some listed below:

  • A conviction will still appear on your criminal history if relevant for a criminal or civil court proceeding. For example if you go to court for a new criminal charge the court can get access to all your previous convictions.

  • If restitution was ordered then if it has not been paid by the time the rehabilitation period ends the conviction remains until the rehabilitation has been paid in full.

  • It is likely that it would still be required for you to disclose an excluded conviction if you were to apply for Australian citizenship or a blue card.

  • An excluded conviction may still be disclosed if you are seeking admission to a profession, occupation, or calling prescribed by regulation. For example, a lawyer, police officer or corrective services officer.

  • All previous convictions would remain in law enforcement databases.

  • For commonwealth offences where the sentenced occurred in Queensland the rehabilitation period is 10 years no matter which court heard the charge.

In conclusion, the law allows some scope for prior convictions to be hidden from your record.

 

I had a conviction 15 years ago and I don’t have to disclose it but I’m applying to be a teacher and the form says I must disclosure all convictions

The law specifies where a person must still disclosure a conviction no matter what. They can include:

  • a person applying to be a teacher

  • a person applying to be a lawyer

  • a person applying to be a police officer

  • a person applying for a blue card

You can click here to see the full list.

 

Can I apply to expunge my conviction early?

No, there is no way to speed up the process and get the conviction removed before the rehabilitation period has ended.

The only rare exception is for people with historical convictions for homosexual offences prior to 1991.

 

So after the rehabilitation period has ended can I say I was never convicted of an offence?

You can generally say you have no convictions if you meet all the following (see also the exceptions above):

  • you weren't sentenced to imprisonment as part of your sentence or you were sentenced to prison for less than 30 months (regardless of whether you actually had to go to prison)

  • the rehabilitation period (5 years for Magistrates Court convictions, and 10 years for District and Supreme Court convictions or commonwealth convictions) has expired

  • you haven't broken the law since your conviction

  • you have paid any restitution ordered

Remember if no conviction was recorded at the time of the offence then the offence does not appear on your criminal record ever. This article is just about where a conviction was recorded.

Read 167 times Last modified on Friday, 12 January 2024 14:23
Jacob Pruden

Jacob is a former barrister and now criminal defence lawyer with over 8 years experience appearing in courts throughout South East Queensland representing clients charged with criminal offences.