How To Avoid A Criminal Record in Victoria

How To Avoid A Criminal Record in VictoriaA criminal record shows prior convictions to those who might request it. It could have implications related to housing, employment, and some access to services. The police in Victoria have a more extensive criminal record available to them that shows not only convictions but also charges.

Because having a criminal record can have negative implications, many people wonder how they can avoid a criminal record. Individuals in Victoria can avoid a criminal record by getting a charge dismissed, using a diversion program, or requesting that a charge be “spent” (or removed from your record) after a specific waiting period.

Potential Outcomes for Criminal Charges in Victoria

When someone is charged with a crime, there are a number of ultimate outcomes that can occur in Victoria. Below are just a few potential outcomes, some of which do not result in a conviction that will be included on a criminal record. It's crucial to consult with experienced criminal lawyers to better understand which outcomes are the most likely in your specific circumstances and how to best navigate the legal proceedings to get the best possible outcome.

1.      Dismissal by the Prosecution

In some circumstances, the prosecutors of a criminal charge will work partially through the case and then decide that they do not have enough evidence to support a conviction. These circumstances are rare. In those cases, the prosecution will dismiss the case so that it is never heard before a judge or jury. No criminal record will result if the prosecution decides to dismiss the case.

2.      Dismissal by the Magistrate

A magistrate judge can also decide to dismiss a case. However, this type of dismissal is very different compared to a dismissal from the prosecution. In this type of situation, the magistrate decides that you are guilty of a crime, but they do not record a conviction against you or impose any other penalties.

3.      Discharge

A discharge occurs when the magistrate finds you guilty but decides not to impose any other penalty. However, in a discharge, there is a recorded conviction on your criminal record.

4.      Adjourned Undertaking

An adjourned undertaking also involves a guilty finding by a magistrate. But the magistrate then releases you into the community by “adjourning” the matter. Essentially, the matter is put on “pause” as long as certain conditions are met. For instance, the judge might require that you go through a drug or alcohol treatment program or require that you not have any more offences or charges within a specific period of time. It is up to the judge if they want to record a conviction if they give you an adjourned undertaking. In some cases, providing a strong character reference can influence the magistrate’s decision during an adjourned undertaking, by highlighting the defendant’s positive qualities, past good behaviour and positive reputation.

5.      Diversion Programs

A diversion program allows you to deal with your criminal conviction outside of court. By going through the diversion program, you can avoid getting a conviction on your record. The program will often require that certain conditions are met, such as providing an apology to the crime victim, going through drug or alcohol rehabilitation programs, education programs, or community service work. Diversion programs are usually only used for relatively minor charges.

6.      Community Correction Orders

In most circumstances, a community correction order will result in a conviction. The correction order simply allows you to serve out your sentence in the community instead of being sent to jail. These types of orders usually have conditions attached, such as treatment, supervision, and community service. They might also involve limitations on where you can go or how late you can be out in the evening.

7.      Jail Time, Fines, and Criminal Records

In the average case, potential consequences will include a notation on your criminal record. That notation of the conviction will also usually come with other consequences, such as having to pay fines or serve time in jail. The severity of the charge will dictate how much the fine can be or how long the jail time might be.

Your Criminal Record Is Not Always Permanent

A spent conviction is a conviction that falls off your criminal record if certain conditions are met. In most cases, a spent conviction will automatically fall off your criminal record five years after you fulfil all of the obligations related to the conviction, including serving time in jail or paying fines. How long a criminal record lasts can depend on several factors.

Having a conviction spent does not avoid the conviction - it’s still on your record for a period of time. However, it can be a good way to have convictions removed if they are old enough. Unfortunately, some convictions are too severe to qualify to be spent.

Avoiding A Criminal Record Via A Diversion Program

One of the most common ways to avoid a criminal conviction is to go through a diversion program - the Criminal Justice Diversion Program. These programs are designed to help individuals rehabilitate after being charged with a crime. It is geared toward first-time offenders, but there are some circumstances where those who have been convicted of another crime could qualify for the program.

To qualify for the program, the following general requirements must be met:

  • The charging officer agrees to the program
  • Attendance at court for the “mention hearing,” where you complete a questionnaire and interview
  • The court approves the diversion recommendation from the prosecution
  • In some cases, the diversion might include restrictions such as not being allowed to travel. Depending on the severity of the crime, monitoring mechanisms such as ankle bracelets, the ability to track your location via your phone, or even house arrest might be implemented

Once the diversion plan is in place, you must follow the plan. If you complete the plan, then the charges are dismissed. If you do not complete the plan, the court will likely hear the matter again.

Conclusion

Avoiding a criminal record might require the use of one of Victoria’s specific alternative plans, such as through an adjourned undertaking or a diversion program. If you’ve been charged of a crime and you’re looking for a criminal lawyer to help you determine the best way to keep your record clean and get the best possible outcome for your case, then reach out to the experienced criminal lawyers at Josh Smith Legal. Request a free consultation with one of our lawyers by calling 03 9733 2344 or fill in the form on this page.

Resources and Further Reading

  1. https://www.legalaid.vic.gov.au/criminal-records
  2. https://www.justice.vic.gov.au/spent-convictions
  3. https://www.mcv.vic.gov.au/find-support/diversion
June Duncan

June Duncan

June has been writing about legal matters for law firms for over a decade. She is a licensed lawyer and currently practices law full-time. She writes in her spare time because she enjoys helping others decode the complexities of legal jargon so they can understand and assert their legal rights.

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