Destroying fingerprints and records held by the police.

fingerprint evidence and wrongful convictionsIf you have ever been charged with a crime, the police may have your fingerprints and other records on file. This can have serious implications on your professional career, any immigration issues you may be dealing with, and as a general matter, your personal privacy.

You don’t have a “right” to have your prints and records destroyed in every case.

As a legal matter, when somebody is charged with a criminal offence, the police have a right to keep records relating to that person. These records may include, among other things, fingerprints and a record of the offence with which the person was charged.

Although this information is often personal and represents an incursion into the privacy of the accused, the police are legally allowed to take and even keep these records in many circumstances. However, this does not mean the police can keep these records indefinitely in every situation. The law is fairly clear on this point. Yet many accused people don’t know their rights and may be allowing the police to keep personal records when they can assert their right to privacy and have these fingerprints and other records destroyed.

If you don’t ask, your records and prints won’t be expunged.

If you have been found not guilty of an offence, had your charges withdrawn, stayed, or “dropped” because you entered into a peace bond, you can likely have your fingerprint records destroyed. It may be as simple a matter as asking that they be destroyed after the appropriate time period has elapsed.

Unfortunately, it is not always this simple: many accused people have their requests to have their police records destroyed improperly and illegally denied by the Toronto Police. This is not the final word on the matter. If you have a good lawyer, he or she can appeal this decision and re-assert your right to privacy on your behalf.

The case law is favourable, but not determinative.

The Ontario Court of Appeal has ruled on this issue and the state of the current law is encouraging. The case of R. v. Dore essentially states that a balance must be struck between your privacy and the necessity of the police doing their job. It goes on to strongly suggest that if your charges have been withdrawn or you have been acquitted of those charges, the balance falls in your favour: the police should destroy your records upon request. They may refuse to do so, but a good lawyer knowledgeable in the law on this issue knows that this decision can often be easily overturned upon a properly crafted appeal.

If you have any questions about destruction of fingerprint and other police records, please feel free to call me or any of the experienced lawyers here at Robichaud’s and someone will be happy to discuss it with you.

Assert your right to privacy.

Jordan Gold