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Criminal convictions 

Legal Information

If you go to court and you tell the court you have broken the law (you plead guilty) or, even if you don't 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've been to court for breaking the law (even if no conviction is recorded) is complex. If you're not sure about whether you have to tell someone that you've 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 don't have a criminal record, do I?

No (with some exceptions), 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. 

  1. generally, you can say you don't have any convictions
  2. if you're answering questions about whether you have any criminal history/criminal record, make sure you fully understand the question
  3. 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
  4. for some types of jobs/applications (e.g. Blue Card), even if you don't 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. There is a fee for this.

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 weren't given jail for more than 30 months as part of your sentence.

If:

  1. you weren't given jail as part of your sentence, or if you were given jail but for less than 30 months and
  2. enough time has passed and
  3. you haven't broken the law again since your conviction

you can say you have no convictions.

The time that has to pass (called the rehabilitation period) after which you don't need to mention you have been convicted is:

  • for Queensland offences:
    1. ten years if you were convicted in the Supreme or district court as an adult
    2. 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:
    1. five years if you were convicted as a child
    2. 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 and whether the convictions were recorded or not.

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.

For more information about penalties and sentencing, see Possible penalties and sentences.

You should get legal advice.

Participants in a criminal organisation

If you are or have ever been a participant in a criminal organisation, the Commissioner of Police may disclose your criminal history if they are satisfied it is in the public interest to do so. This could include notifying other authorities or publishing your criminal history to the public. You should get legal advice.

For more information about being a participant in a criminal organisation, see Participating in a criminal organisation.

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 'working with children check' carried out by the Public Safety Business Agency.

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.

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've been discriminated against because of my criminal conviction?

You can 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.

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Do I need legal advice?

You may need legal advice if you

  • are not sure whether you have to tell someone that you've been charged, been to court, or been convicted
  • have questions about your criminal history and what you are required to disclose when applying for a blue card
  • think you have been discriminated against because of your criminal convictions.
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Where can I get legal advice

Legal Aid Queensland may give advice about criminal convictions, disclosing criminal history and other personal information.

Legal Aid Queensland may give advice about preparing to appear in QCAT to have a blue card decision reviewed.

The following organisations may also be able to provide you with legal advice.

Community legal centres may give free preliminary legal advice and information on some criminal law matters. Most CLCs do not provide legal representation. Check with your closest CLC whether they can assist with your matter.

Queensland Law Society can refer you to a specialist private solicitor who can provide advice and representation.

Important: before seeking legal advice about a criminal conviction, you should get a copy of your criminal history to show the lawyer. Application for criminal history can be made at any police station. You will need to present photo identification and pay a fee. Queensland Police Service website provides more information.

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Who else can help?

These organisations may also be able to help with your matter. They do not provide legal advice.

Public Business Safety Agency conducts screening to determine a person's eligibility to work with children and young people.

Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) reviews some decisions made by government departments and statutory authorities, including decisions of the Commission for Children and Young People and Child Guardian about blue cards.

Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) can help with complaints about discrimination in the workplace on the basis of criminal record.

Queensland courts provide information for people going to court (defendants and witnesses) and general information about the different types of courts in Queensland, eg Magistrates, District, Supreme, Mental Health Court, Childrens court, Coroners court, and more.

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Disclaimer - Copyright © 1997 Legal Aid Queensland. This content is provided as an information source only and is not legal advice. If you have a legal problem, you should seek legal advice from a lawyer. Legal Aid Queensland believes the information is accurate as at 2 April 2014 but accepts no responsibility for any errors or omissions and denies all liability for any expenses, losses, damages and costs you might incur due to the information being inaccurate or incomplete in any way.



Last modified: 1 July 2014 2:39PM
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Criminal convictions