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Absolute Discharge: Definition & Overview

Instructor: Elisha Madison

Elisha has Master's degree in Ancient Celtic History & Mythology, as well as a Bachelor's in Marketing. She has extensive experience creating & teaching curricula in college level education, history, English, business and marketing.

An absolute discharge is a sentence that can be given in the Canadian court system to minor offenders that the judge does not feel jail time or probation is necessary.

Absolute Discharge

So let's say that a kid is caught with a small amount of marijuana on him. He is a teenager starting a new job, and appears to be well behaved other than this small offense. In this situation, in Canada he could be given an absolute discharge, which states that he is guilty but not convicted of the crime. Canadian law has several judgements that can happen when a small crime is committed. The two lowest judgements are:

  • Absolute Discharge - This means there is no jail time, probation, or fee required. It is not considered an actual crime, though it will show up for 1 year on your record, and will stay as reportable information on criminal background checks.
  • Conditional Discharge - This is similar to the above but usually requires a certain time of probation before you are completely discharged, and stays on the record for 3 years.

Crimes that would elicit such a small judgement would be stealing and theft of under $5,000, shouting or uttering threats to another, and minor assault. The only time that these crimes would result in a discharge would be perhaps if it is a first time occurrence, or if the accused can prove that anything other than a discharge would affect their career, thus causing more damage. However, keep in mind a discharge is not a judgement of not guilty. A discharge is officially saying you are guilty of a crime, but not severe enough to warrant any jail time, punishment, or conviction. Similar to misdemeanors in the United States, it is very minor and affects very little, except it can show up on a criminal background check if the discharge was granted prior to 1992.

Criminal Background Checks

Although the absolute discharge falls off public record in a year in present day, it did not fall off automatically back prior to 1992, so there are people that still have this on their record even though it is way past the end date. This is important because it can affect certification processes for teaching, psychology, or even public health. It also can affect a new job check, because it will pop up as red flag that they will ask you about. Additionally, it can come up as you travel abroad, which can be awkward and cause issues.

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