Police Record Checks--What Can They Disclose?

Author:Forester, Heather

Police Record Checks are increasingly requested by employers and other entities, including volunteer, educational, licensing, adoption, foster care, and foreign travel organizations or authorities. It is important to understand that Police Record Checks can and do reveal information that goes far beyond records of criminal convictions. The most frequent call the Alberta Civil Liberties Research Centre receives is from people who are surprised and distraught that a "criminal record check" has revealed personal information about them that is unrelated to any criminal record they may or may not have. The information disclosed in a Police Record Check not only includes records of criminal convictions but can also include "non-conviction records" and "police contact records." The disclosure of this broader range of records can result in the subject of the Police Record Checks experiencing unfair treatment and humiliation. Police Record Checks also disproportionately affect people who have more contact with the police, such as people living in poverty or people with mental health or developmental disabilities. They may also negatively impact employers and other organizations that receive this information, if they collect, retain, use or disclose it in a manner that violates the law, including human rights, privacy and criminal laws.

The information revealed in a Police Record Check is collected by the police and stored in a number of police databases across the country. There is no Canada-wide legislation or uniform guidelines governing what information can be collected, how it should be used, stored, maintained and disclosed or how long it should be retained. However, the Uniform Law Conference of Canada Working Group on Criminal Record Checks is currently working on a uniform law (ULCCWG-Criminal Record Checks).

There are three basic types of Police Record Checks: Criminal Record Checks, Vulnerable Sector Checks, and Police Information Checks.

The Criminal Record Check is the narrowest type of Police Record Check. It discloses records of convictions or findings of guilt under criminal law statutes including the Canadian Criminal Code and the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

The Vulnerable Sector Check is the most in-depth type of Police Record Check. It discloses all the records disclosed under the Criminal Record Check and Police Information Check as well as information about sexual and violent offences for which the offender has been pardoned...

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