HAVING a criminal record can destroy your chances of getting employed if you don't have a job. You could also miss out on a lot of opportunities in other areas of your life. From the job application process right through to the final interview stages, landing a job will not be a walk in the park as employers are cautious about whom they hire.
WHAT IS A CRIMINAL RECORD?
A criminal record is a record of your criminal history and is used by potential employers, lenders and others to assess your trustworthiness. The information included in a criminal record varies between countries and even between authorities in a country. In most cases, it lists all criminal offences and may also include traffic offences such as speeding and drunk driving. In some countries, the record is limited to actual convictions where the individual has pleaded guilty or was found guilty by the court. In other countries, it also includes arrests, charges dismissed, charges pending and charges of which an individual has been acquitted. SAPS’ Captain Thinandavha Lufhugu adds that a criminal record is the formal record of offences that you’ve been convicted of whether you’ve pleaded guilty or been found guilty. If you have been found not guilty, it will not reflect on your record. “Generally, the police will not release your criminal record without your consent, but there are exceptions, including requests from other police forces and courts. You might need a copy of your criminal record to apply for a job, to work as a volunteer, with children or apply for insurance,” he says.
CRIMINAL RECORDS DO NOT LAST FOREVER
There are several organisations, such as Fresh Start Law Centre, you can contact to help you clear your criminal record at a fee. This means it will be as if you never had the conviction to begin with. “If you’re found guilty or plead guilty to an offence, the magistrate may decide not to record a conviction. In this case, you generally won’t have a criminal record, but there are exceptions, so it’s best to check with the magistrate,” says Captain Thinandavha. He explains that criminal records don’t necessarily last forever, it differs with the number of years you have been sentenced to.
NOTE THE FOLLOWING BEFORE APPLYING TO HAVE YOUR CRIMINAL RECORD REMOVED:
¦ Your criminal record can be expunged if 10 years have lapsed after the date of your conviction of your offence.
¦ You have not been convicted and imprisoned for any other offence during those 10 years.
¦ Your conviction was based on your race.
¦ You did not receive a direct prison sentence for your conviction, except a sentence of periodical imprisonment or correctional supervision.
¦ Your record can be expunged after five years for other cases, unless you were ordered to pay restitution.
¦ Prosecutors, courts and certain jobs may still require you to mention your criminal history, even if the appropriate time has passed.
HOW TO CLEAR YOUR CRIMINAL RECORD
Captain Thinandavha advises on a procedure to follow to obtain expungement of your criminal record. “A police clearance certificate showing an interval of 10 years between your conviction and sentence must be obtained from the Criminal Record Centre of the South African Police Service to confirm the details and dates of the offence,” he says. “Go to your nearest police station to fill the form and then the police station will refer you to the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development in Pretoria where they will process your application within six weeks. Your criminal record will be cleared,” he advises.
BRINGING A LAWYER INTO THE EQUATION
Wassina Benito from Fresh Start Law Centre says it is not necessary to get a lawyer to clear your criminal record. “In common belief, most criminal records are not automatically cleared after five or 10 years. If you were convicted for a minor or major case, the court of law will automatically clear it without any concern of a lawyer,” she says. She says if you are seeking expungement for a time-sensitive reason such as an application for financial aid or applying for housing on a competitive basis and you think your case may fall into one of the above categories, then you should definitely seek the services of a lawyer.