What is a criminal record?
A criminal record is the formal record of offences that you’ve been convicted of because you’ve either pleaded guilty or been found guilty. If you’ve been found not guilty, it will not show up in your record.
If you’ve been convicted in more than one state, you may have more than one record—one in each state.
Generally, police will not release your criminal record without your consent, but there are exceptions, including requests from other police forces and courts.
You might need a copy of your criminal record to apply for a job, work as a volunteer, work with children, apply for insurance or get an overseas visa.
A criminal court will review your record when deciding an appropriate penalty for an offence or before granting bail.
When you don’t have a criminal record
If you’re found guilty or plead guilty to an offence, the magistrate may decide not to record a conviction. In this case, you generally won’t have a criminal record but there are exceptions so it’s best to check with the magistrate.
When you answer questions about your criminal history, ensure you fully understand the question. You may be asked if you’ve been charged with breaking the law or found guilty, which is different from whether you have a recorded conviction.
Some job applications require you to disclose whether you’ve been found guilty or pleaded guilty in court, such as when you apply for a blue card to work with children.
How long your criminal record lasts
Criminal records don’t necessarily last forever. You can say you have no convictions if you meet all the following criteria:
- you weren't sentenced to prison as part of your sentence or you were sentenced to prison for less than 30 months (regardless of whether you actually had to go to prison)
- enough time has passed (see below)
- you haven't broken the law since your conviction.
For Queensland offences, the time that has to pass before you don't have to mention a conviction is:
- 10 years if you were convicted in the Supreme Court or District Court as an adult
- 5 years for other cases, unless you were ordered to pay restitution, and then until you have paid.
For nationwide offences:
- 5 years if you were convicted as a child
- 10 years for all other cases.
However, prosecutors, courts and certain jobs may still require you to mention your criminal history, even if the appropriate time has passed.
Always read documents you’ve been given very carefully, and get legal advice if necessary.
Spent Convictions Scheme
Criminal records may also be covered by the Spent Convictions Scheme. This means in some situations, you don’t have to disclose old minor convictions after a certain amount of time has passed. The scheme also protects your criminal record from being used and disclosed in an unauthorised way.
It covers convictions for minor federal, state and foreign offences, with protection depending on the type of offence. The scheme also covers pardons and quashed convictions.
Some offences are excluded from the scheme, but they are very limited.
Discrimination and privacy
The Information Privacy Act
A criminal record contains personal information. The Information Privacy Act 2009 (IP Act) has rules about how we must handle your personal information.
If you believe a Queensland Government agency has not handled your personal information appropriately, you can make a privacy complaint. Contact the Office of the Information Commissioner for more information on the IP Act or how to make a complaint.
If you think an Australian Government agency has not handled your personal information appropriately, you can contact the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner for more information.
Only Tasmania and the Northern Territory have anti-discrimination laws that specifically protect against discrimination due to a criminal record.
In Queensland, you can complain about workplace discrimination due to your criminal record to the Australian Human Rights Commission. In this case, you should get legal advice.
State and federal industrial laws may also protect you from unfair treatment at work, such as the Fair Work Act 2009 and Anti-Discrimination Act 1991.
Some employees covered by the national workplace relations system can lodge a complaint of unfair dismissal with Fair Work Australia.
Read more about criminal history checks.
Read more about your right to information.