Make a fresh start
If you have a criminal record, no matter how minor the offence, your chances of getting a job are slim. But there is good news. If it’s been 10 years or more since the conviction, you can apply to have your criminal record wiped clean. This is known as “expungement”.
What is expungement of a criminal record?
Expungement of a criminal record is a legal process through which you can apply to the Department of Justice to remove any record of previous minor criminal offences from the criminal record database of the South African Police Service (SAPS).
This process came into effect in 2009 as a result of changes to the Criminal Procedure Act, 1977 (Act 51 of 1997) which made it easier for people to clear their name of a minor offence so that the past was no longer an obstacle to future employment opportunities. The Act was also designed to assist anyone convicted of apartheid era crimes.
Note that expungement of criminal records differs from restorative justice.
Are you eligible to have your criminal record wiped clean?
According to Section 217B(1) of the Criminal Procedure Act, you can apply to have your criminal record expunged if:
- It has been 10 years since the date of your conviction (if you were 18 or younger when you were convicted you can apply after five years).
- It was a minor offence, such as petty theft or shoplifting.
- You were not convicted of any other offence and were given the option of a fine rather than imprisonment.
- You were told that by paying a fine you would not receive a criminal record and you’ve subsequently discovered that you indeed have a record.
- You were fined less than R20 000.
- You received a suspended sentence.
- Your name has been removed from the National Register of Sex Offenders or the National Child Protection Register, if relevant.
You do not qualify for expungement if:
- It has not been 10 years since the conviction.
- Your name is either listed in or has not been removed from the National Register for Sex Offenders or the National Child Protection Register.
- You were sentenced to prison without the option of a fine.
- You received a fine of more than R20 000.
- You were convicted of a serious crime such as murder, rape other sexual offences, or violent crimes.
Getting the ball rolling – steps in the expungement process
- First obtain a clearance certificate from the Criminal Record Centre of the SAPS proving that 10 years has elapsed since your conviction. This certificate must be attached to your application.
- Complete the expungement application forms (Part II and Part III) and, together with the clearance certificate, post or hand deliver them to the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development in Pretoria.
- If you meet the requirements set out in section 271B(1) of the Act, you will be notified in writing that your application was successful and that your crime has been expunged. You will likewise receive written notification if your application is denied together with the reasons for this decision. The process usually takes about three months.
The employment landscape
One of the biggest challenges facing South Africa is high unemployment, coupled with widespread poverty, high inequality and poor economic growth. The country’s official unemployment rate for job-seekers is 27.2% (Stats SA), but if we accept the broad definition, which includes those who have given up trying to find a job, the true level of unemployment is probably closer to 50%.
Finding a job is hard enough without the added barrier of a criminal record. Since more and more employers are running background checks on potential employees and are entitled to refuse or terminate employment because of a previous crime, even a minor one, it makes sense to apply for expungement. Any future background checks will not reflect prior convictions.
Given the gloomy landscape, job seekers must be able to “put their best foot forward”. Don’t let a past mistake determine your future.
Let our law firm help you
Cape Town Attorneys, SD Law & Associates Inc. are criminal attorneys and bail lawyers. Speak to us to find out more about having your criminal record wiped clean or about any other aspect of criminal law. Call Cape Town Lawyer Simon on 086 099 5146 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
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The information on this website is provided to assist the reader with a general understanding of the law. While we believe the information to be factually accurate, and have taken care in our preparation of these pages, these articles cannot and do not take individual circumstances into account and are not a substitute for personal legal advice. If you have a legal matter that concerns you, please consult a qualified attorney. Simon Dippenaar & Associates takes no responsibility for any action you may take as a result of reading the information contained herein (or the consequences thereof), in the absence of professional legal advice.