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What does it mean to be found guilty without conviction?

In the courts, following a finding that a person is guilty of a criminal offence, lawyers often argue that their client should be spared a criminal record by “avoiding a conviction”. Lawyers will submit that the court should not record a conviction as this may hamper their client’s job prospects. Magistrates and judges will sometimes act on these submissions as a measure of lenience to the offender if this is seen to be in the public interest. Victorian sentencing law requires the courts to take these issues into account.

Victorian law permits courts to find a person guilty of an offence but not to record a conviction. This can be done when adjourning a case on condition of good behaviour or when giving a fine or correction order. A conviction must be recorded when a more severe penalty is imposed, such as a sentence of imprisonment.

When the court is considering whether or not to record a conviction, the law states that all circumstances of the case must be considered. These circumstances include the nature of the offence, the character and past history of the offender, and the impact of recording a conviction on the offender’s economic or social well-being or employment prospects (s 8 Sentencing Act 1991 (Vic) (“Sentencing Act”).

This statement of legal principle may give the impression that not recording a conviction will protect the offender from harm (in regards to their social well-being or employment prospects being negatively affected). Unfortunately, this is not always so. Under the Victoria Police policy relating to criminal records, employers (and others you authorise to access or receive your police record) will be informed of findings of guilt made against you, regardless of whether a conviction is recorded or not. Police may also list an offence on your record if you have been charged and the case is awaiting hearing, or even if you are only a suspect under investigation.

What does it mean to be found guilty without conviction? :: Last updated: Sun Jun 30th 2013