The Criminal Code outlines the sentences available to a judge when handing out punishment for a particular crime. The sentences range from jail to house arrest, fines and probation. Some crimes have minimum sentences and all crimes have maximum sentences.
Most times, an adult who is sentenced by a judge also gets a criminal record as a result. A criminal record is a recording of adult convictions, conviction dates and sentences. A person becomes an adult when they turn 18 years old. A person is sentenced after they are found guilty or plead guilty to offences.
There is a category of sentence called a Discharge. In some cases, a sentencing judge can discharge a person rather than sentence them. When a person is discharged, they do not end up with a criminal record.
Discharges can either be absolute — no probationary period attaches to it — or conditional which includes a probationary period. Conditional Discharges usually have conditions like abstaining from consuming alcohol or staying away from a certain person. In both cases, the person is discharged and does not have a criminal record. In some cases, the Crown can re-institute the charges if the person becomes involved in the criminal justice system again.
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).
In order to grant a discharge, the Court must find that it’s in the best interest of the accused and not contrary to the public interest. Unfortunately, people who have criminal records already will not usually be granted discharges by the court. Not all offences are eligible for a discharge. Consult a lawyer if you have any questions about any aspect of the criminal process.