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.
- generally, you can say you don't have any convictions
- if you're answering questions about whether you have any criminal history/criminal record, make sure you fully understand the question
- 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
- 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.
- you weren't given jail as part of your sentence, or if you were given jail but for less than 30 months and
- enough time has passed and
- 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:
- ten years if you were convicted in the Supreme or district court as an adult
- 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:
- five years if you were convicted as a child
- 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.