If you go to Court and you tell the Court you have broken the law (you plead guilty) or, even if you do not plead guilty but the Court says you are guilty, then you are convicted. The Court does not always record a conviction.
The law on whether you have to tell people that you have been to Court for breaking the law (even if no conviction is recorded) is complex. If you are not sure about whether you have to tell someone that you have been charged, been to Court, been convicted etc, ask a lawyer for legal advice.
I pleaded guilty and the Magistrate said no conviction recorded. I do not have a criminal record, do I?
You do not have a criminal conviction for that offence, but you have still been charged with breaking the law and you have still been convicted, because a conviction means that the Court has found you guilty or the Court has accepted your plea of guilty. Your matter would still appear on your criminal history but would be noted as having no conviction recorded. If this happens you should note:
- generally, you can say you do not have any convictions.
- if you are answering questions about whether you have any criminal history/criminal record, make sure you fully understand the question before you answer it.
- you could be asked questions about whether you have ever been charged with breaking the law, or whether you have been found guilty, pleaded guilty or been convicted. These questions are different from asking if you have a conviction recorded.
- for some types of jobs/applications (e.g. Blue Card), even if you do not have a conviction recorded you still have to tell the person asking about being found guilty/pleading guilty in a Court.
How do I check my criminal history?
You can check your criminal history by going to your local police station and filling in a form to request a copy. Fees will apply. A copy of the application form can be found on the Queensland Police website.
I was convicted a long time ago and I know I have a criminal record. Does it last forever?
Not always, as long as you were not given jail for more than 30 months as part of your sentence.
- you were not given jail as part of your sentence, or if you were given jail but for less than 30 months; and
- enough time has passed; and
- you have not broken the law again since your conviction.
you can generally say you have no convictions.
The time that has to pass (called the rehabilitation period) after which you do not need to mention you have been convicted is:
- for Queensland offences:
- ten years if you were convicted in the Supreme or District Court as an adult.
- in any other case, only five years unless restitution was ordered to be paid, and then until the restitution has been paid.
- for Commonwealth offences:
- five years if you were convicted as a child.
- in any other case, ten years.
If you break the law again, this can make the rehabilitation period longer. It can even make it completely start again. There are many exceptions to not having to mention your criminal history even though the rehabilitation period has passed, like:
- production of your criminal history to a prosecutor where the prosecutor is asking for another conviction against you.
- where a Court or community corrections is to make an Order about you.
- if you are applying for certain jobs like teachers, police, lawyers, child care workers.
The law in this area is technical and there are many exceptions. If you want to know if you have to mention that you have been convicted or charged, always read any documents you have been given very carefully and ask a lawyer for legal advice.
Prior convictions and sentencing
Your prior criminal convictions can affect how you are sentenced for any new offences you are convicted of. You may be given a more serious sentence if you have committed similar offences in the past.
When sentencing you, the Court may consider what offences you have been convicted of in the past. This includes offences that you were convicted of as a child if a conviction was recorded.
When deciding how your previous criminal convictions will affect your sentence, the Court will consider:
- the nature of your previous convictions.
- the relevance of the previous offences to the current offence; and
- the time that has elapsed since you were convicted of the offence.
Can I get a blue card if I have a criminal conviction?
If you work with children, either as a paid employee or as a volunteer, you may need a suitability notice called a blue card.
To get a blue card you will need to apply and undergo screening called a ‘blue card check’ carried out by Blue Card Services. if you have been convicted of a serious offence, to support your application you will be asked to make a submission.
The agency will consider your criminal history and any disciplinary material held about you by professional organisations. They will also take into account any police investigations into allegations of serious child related sexual offences, even if no charges were laid because the child was unwilling or unable to proceed with the complaint. Certain criminal offences in your record called ‘excluding offences’ will preclude you from a blue card for life.
Some people are disqualified for even applying for a blue card and may receive a penalty for applying for a blue card. If you have been convicted of a sexual offence, a child-related pornography offence or a serious sexual or violence offence you should get legal advice before even applying to ensure you are not a relevant disqualified person.
If you apply for a blue card and it is considered you should not be issued a blue card, you will be asked to make a submission.
If your application is refused, you receive a negative notice. If you have not been precluded from having a blue card for life, then a negative decision may be reviewed by the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT). You must apply for a review within 28 days. There may be exceptions – refer to your notice or contact QCAT.
What can I do if I think I have been discriminated against because of my criminal conviction?
You may be able to complain about discrimination in the workplace on the basis of criminal record to the Australian Human Rights Commission
AHRC will try to resolve the complaint by conciliation. If the complaint does not resolve, AHRC will prepare a report for the Federal Government with its recommendations, however you cannot enforce a AHRC recommendation. If you think you have been discriminated against because of your criminal convictions, you should get legal advice.
Can I have a historical homosexual conviction cleared from my record?
Consensual adult male homosexual activity stopped being a criminal offence in Queensland on 19 January 1991. If you were charged or convicted for a relevant offence before 19 January 1991, you may be able to have the offence expunged – or cleared – from your record.
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