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?
You don't have a criminal conviction for that offence, 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. Your matter would still appear on your criminal history but would be noted as having no conviction recorded. If this happens you should note:
- 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 before you answer it
- 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 to request a copy. Fees will apply. A copy of the application form can be found on the Queensland Police website.
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 generally 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 if a conviction was recorded.
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.
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 'blue card check' carried out by Blue Card Services. if you have been convicted of a serious offence, to support your application you will be asked to make a submission.
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.
Some people are disqualified for even applying for a blue card and may receive a penalty for applying for a blue card. If you have been convicted of a sexual offence, a child-related pornography offence or a serious sexual or violence offence you should get legal advice before even applying to ensure you aren't a relevant disqualified person.
If you apply for a blue card and it is considered you shouldn't be issued a blue card, you will be asked to make a submission. You can get further information about making a submission here. Your may also wish to get legal advice before making a submission.
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 may be able to 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.
Can I have a historical homosexual conviction cleared from my record?
Consensual adult male homosexual activity stopped being a criminal offence in Queensland on 19 January 1991. If you were charged or convicted for a relevant offence before 19 January 1991, you may be able to have the offence expunged – or cleared – from your record. For more information about having your charges expunged, see Expungement of historical criminal convictions.
You should get legal advice.
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
- are considered a relevant disqualified person who could receive a penalty for applying for a blue card
- think you have been discriminated against because of your criminal convictions
- want to apply to have a historical homosexual conviction expunged (cleared).
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.
The LGBTI Legal Service may give legal help and advice to clients who want to apply to have a historical homosexual conviction expunged.
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.
Who else can help?
These organisations may also be able to help with your matter. They do not provide legal advice.
Blue Card Services 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.
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.
Disclaimer: This content is for general purposes only and not legal advice. If you have a legal problem, please contact us or speak to a lawyer. View our full disclaimer.
Last updated 13 April 2023
If you have a general question for Legal Aid Queensland, please use the general question form or call 1300 65 11 88, Monday to Friday, 8.30am to 4.30pm.