03 8622 8200

Does a conviction stay on my record forever?

A common and pressing question for individuals who have faced a criminal change is whether that mark remains on their record indefinitely. The repercussions of having a conviction on your record can extend into many aspects of life, from employment opportunities to housing applications. It’s essential to understand the nuances of how long convictions stay on one's record in Victoria and how criminal lawyers in Melbourne and Victoria can help you do something about it.

Understanding Convictions and Criminal Records

A conviction is a formal declaration that someone is guilty of a criminal offence, typically following a trial or plea. In Victoria, like many places, this conviction becomes part of their criminal record. This record is a comprehensive list of an individual's official interactions with the criminal justice system.

Implications of a Conviction on Record

Having a conviction on your record can bring about a series of challenges and restrictions in various areas of life:

Employment Impact: Many employers conduct background checks before finalising a hiring decision. A conviction, especially a recent one, can be viewed as a risk by potential employers. Some industries, especially those requiring security clearances or roles involving vulnerable populations, may have strict policies against hiring individuals with certain convictions.

Housing Difficulties: Landlords and housing agencies often perform criminal background checks on potential tenants. A conviction can lead to a denied rental application, especially if the landlord deems the individual a potential liability.

Educational Setbacks: Some educational institutions, especially those offering courses in law, medicine, or other regulated professions, may require a background check as part of their admissions process. A conviction can be a hindrance, potentially limiting educational and subsequent career opportunities.

Travel Restrictions: As previously mentioned, several countries assess the criminal records of visa applicants. Depending on its nature and the country's policies, a conviction could lead to visa denials, making international travel difficult. Even transiting through some countries can become problematic.

Financial Consequences: Some financial institutions may be wary of offering loans or credit to individuals with specific convictions. This can particularly impact those looking to start a business or require a mortgage.

Given these varied implications, individuals must be aware of their rights and understand the potential long-term consequences a conviction might have on their lives.

Spent Convictions Scheme in Victoria 

On 1 December 2021, a spent convictions scheme began operating in Victoria. The aim of the scheme is to ensure that past mistakes do not disproportionately impact people later in life. 

A spent conviction is a record of a criminal offence (a 'conviction') that does not appear on a person's police record check in most circumstances. The person does not have to tell people about it (except in a small number of circumstances) and they cannot be asked about it unless the law specifically permits the question.

Once a conviction becomes spent, it no longer forms part of your criminal record; and, in most cases, you do not have to tell anyone about it.

There are three different types of spent convictions:

  • convictions that are immediately spent, for example infringement convictions
  • convictions spent automatically, provided that you do not reoffend for a particular period
  • convictions spent following an order by the Court. 

Convictions that are Immediately Spent

There are various situations where a conviction becomes immediately spent. These include:

  • A conviction for any offence (even a serious offence) where the person was less than 15 years old at the time of offending;
  • Where a person was sentenced ‘without conviction’
  • An infringement conviction;
  • A qualified finding of guilt under the Crimes (Mental Impairment and Unfitness to be Tried) Act 1997 (including for serious convictions).

Convictions that are Spent after a period of time

If you are convicted of a crime that is not considered a ‘serious conviction’ or is not eligible to be spent immediately, the conviction will become automatically spent once a relevant period of time has passed where you have not committed any further offences (except for some minor offences). 

If the person was aged 15-20 when they were sentenced, the conviction period is five years.

If the person was 21 years or older when they were sentenced, the conviction period is 10 years.

If the person reoffends during these periods (apart from some minor offences), the conviction period restarts.

Applying to the Court for a Conviction to be Spent

For adults 21 years or older (at the time of sentencing), convicted of serious violence offences and sexual offences where imprisonment was imposed can never be spent.

Also, an adult who has any conviction with a sentence of 5 years or more imprisonment can

never have that conviction spent.

Convictions that are not covered by the above scenarios, a person can apply to the Court to have their conviction spent.

Navigating Convictions with Criminal Lawyers in Melbourne

While many convictions will not stay on your record indefinitely, the time they remain can be challenging. It's essential to understand your rights, the duration of the conviction's presence, and the potential avenues for applying to the Court.. If you have questions or need guidance, consulting with criminal lawyers in Melbourne may offer clarity and possible pathways to a cleaner record.

Does a conviction stay on my record forever?

© 2023 Copyright Stary Norton Halphen.

Doyle's Guide First Tier Criminal Law firm (2020, 2021 and 2022).