Wiping the slate clean - Expungement of a criminal record

Published: Monday | August 10, 2009

Welcome to The Gleaner's newest feature, In the Name of Justice. In collaboration with the Ministry of Justice, The Gleaner will be seeking to get you all the answers you need on the justice system. Send questions, comments or suggestions to editor@gleanerjm.com and the Ministry of Justice will respond.

George Green* was sentenced to two years in prison for attempting to smuggle cocaine out of the island. He served his full term and was placed back in society. He is eager to move on with his life and vows never to return to a life of crime.

So Green entered university, earned a degree and is ready to take on the world. The trouble is, his criminal record is preventing him from securing a job, to get visas and other things.

He said he has been rehabilitated, but feels he is still being punished for actions he has already paid for.

Certain requirements

According to the Ministry of Justice, Green can apply for expungement. Expungement, essentially, is having a conviction removed from one's criminal/ police record after a specific period of time has elapsed and after certain requirements have been met.

The statute which authorises the expungement of criminal records is the (Rehabilitation of Offenders) Act, 1988.

The principle underlying this provision is that a person who has made a sincere and successful attempt to live down a conviction should be given the opportunity to start afresh without being haunted by an unfortunate past.

In order to qualify, two essential conditions must be satisfied by an individual:

1 The offence in question must be one which attracts a non-custodial sentence or sentence of imprisonment not exceeding three years.

2 The person in question must not have had any other convictions during a specified period of time referred to as the 'rehabilitation period'.

What is a rehabilitation period?

The rehabilitation period is simply the time that a person must wait before an application can be made for the expungement of a conviction. This period varies according to the sentence imposed by the court and ranges from a minimum of six years for non-custodial sentences to a maximum of 20 years for custodial sentences.

The rehabilitation period is calculated from the date of the expiration of the term of imprisonment in the case of custodial sentences, and in other cases upon the satisfaction of the court's sentence.

See table below.

Offences for which a sentence exceeding three years is imposed by the court would not be eligible for expungement.

How is expungement obtained?

Phase 1

In the first phase, the conviction is referred to as 'spent' after the lapse of the rehabilitation period.

Phase 2

In the second phase, the conviction is expunged or removed from the record after the lapse of a further rehabilitation period of equal duration to the first rehabilitation period.

Procedure to apply for expungement

Attend the Ministry of Justice customer service desk (10th floor, South Tower, NCB Towers, 2 Oxford Road, Kingston 5) and request an application form in duplicate.

Have your fingerprints taken at any police station or the Fingerprinting Division, 34 Duke Street, Kingston.

Submit the application form (in duplicate) along with fingerprints to the customer service representative at the Ministry of Justice.

The application is reviewed by the Criminal Records (Rehabilita-tion of Offenders) Board.

Following the review of the application by the board, if the applicant is eligible, contact is made with the referees and associates of the applicant requesting recommendation.

The applicant will be asked to pay a prescribed fee of $1,000 for the fingerprint search. This should be paid to the cashier in the payment division of the Ministry of National Security, North Tower, NCB Towers, 2 Oxford Road, Kingston 5, and a receipt collected and then handed to the customer service representative at the Ministry of Justice.

A police report is then requested from the Criminal Records Office.

After all the required information is received, a final review is made by the board and a decision taken.

Note: The only payment required for this process is the fee for the fingerprint search.

Processing Period

The specified time period to have records expunged may take up to one year.

*Name changed upon request.

SentenceRehabilitation periodTotal waiting period

Where the sentence imposed does

Three yearsSix years

not include imprisonment

Sentence being imprisonment not

Five years10 years

exceeding six months

Sentence being imprisonment more

than six months but less than 18 months

Eight years 16 years

Sentence being imprisonment more than

18 months but less than three years

10 years20 years