The terms Absolute discharge, conditional discharge, and suspended sentence are amongst the lightest possible sentences an accused can receive. They are generally given to an accused who is alleged to have committed a crime which was not significantly serious.
What is an Absolute Discharge?
An absolute discharge is the lightest sentence an adult offender can receive. A finding of guilt is made, but no conviction is registered, and the accused must not follow any probation conditions. The discharge will remain on the accused’s criminal record for a period of one year, after which it will be automatically removed, without need of applying for a record suspension (pardon).
It is important to note that even though an absolute discharge does not result in a criminal record, the individual’s arrest record still exists, along with related court documents. This means that if a potential employer does a criminal background check for a potential employee, the potential employee’s arrest record will still appear, and possibly hinder that individual’s hiring potential. It is imperative to ensure that all documents are fully destroyed following a conditional discharge. This can be done through the RCMP’s purge and file destruction process.
What is a Conditional Discharge?
Like an absolute discharge, a conditional discharge is when a finding of guilt is made, but the accused remains unconvicted. The difference between conditional discharges and absolute discharges is that conditional discharges carry a probation period of one to three years. After the probation period is complete, the incident will be removed from the individual’s criminal record. No record suspension application is needed.
Also akin to an absolute discharge, arrest records and court documents remain in their respective systems, unless the individual to which they belong requests their deletion.
What is a Suspended Sentence?
A suspended sentence is similar to an absolute discharge and conditional discharge in that the accused receives probation for a minimum of one year. But of these three sentencing scenarios, a suspended sentence is the most severe because a conviction is registered against the accused. This conviction will also result in a criminal record. However, the accused can, at a later date, apply for a record suspension.