Socioeconomic conditions, bad timing, even participating in a march can leave you with a criminal record. However, while the decision to commit a crime may be temporary, the consequences are lasting. To get a job, travel for a job, or apply for a visa, you need to have a clear criminal record. For that reason, you should be looking into clearing your criminal record.
Everything You Need to Know About Clearing Your Criminal Record
Clearing a criminal record is a lengthy process. Just because you have the desire to have it expunged doesn’t mean you can accomplish it. So, before you dive into the process, this is everything you need to know about a criminal record.
What is Considered a Criminal Record in South Africa?
It’s important to note that you don’t need to go to court to end up with a criminal record. You may be arrested on a minor charge and sign an admission of guilt.
Something many South Africans are unaware of is that by signing an admission of guilt – which is usually accompanied by paying a fine at a police station – you receive a criminal record. Therefore, it’s important to distinguish between bail and an admission of guilt. In many cases, police officers will suggest you sign an admission of guilt to avoid having to spend time in jail or a holding cell. However, before you sign this type of document, consider speaking with a lawyer. Because once you sign that admission of guilt – unless you’re being prosecuted under AARTO – you will end up with a criminal record.
Can I Find A Job With a Criminal Record?
Many companies and employment agencies do rigorous checks during the recruitment process. As a result, most jobs require you to have a clear criminal record. However, if the infringement is minor and not related to the job you’re applying for, you could have a discrimination case. According to the Employment Equity Act, if you haven’t lied or withheld information about your criminal past and you meet the criteria for the job, if an employer chooses not to hire you, that’s possibly discrimination.
Can I Travel with a Criminal Record?
Each country has unique entry requirements, which means you will have to verify if your criminal record will be checked before you make any plans when travelling abroad. In some instances, you will need to provide this type of information on a voluntary disclosure form.
However, if you need a Visa to travel or want to emigrate, as part of your application, you will be required to attach a police clearance certificate (PCC). You may not be able to get this certificate if you have a criminal record.
Does a Criminal Record Expire in South Africa?
In South Africa, minor convictions can be removed from your criminal record after 10 years.
How Do I Remove or Clear my Criminal Record?
If it has been ten years since a conviction, or you realise your criminal record prevents you from accessing opportunities, follow the steps below to have your criminal record cleared.
Step 1: Determine if You’re Eligible to Have Your Criminal Record Cleared
Before you can go about requesting that your criminal record be cleared, you should ensure you meet the eligibility conditions. The conditions include:
- Ten years have elapsed since you were convicted for the offence.
- You have not been sentenced or convicted without the option of a fine in the ten years since your last conviction.
- Your sentence was corporal punishment.
- Your sentencing was postponed, or you were cautioned and discharged.
- Your imprisonment was wholly suspended.
- Your sentence was a fine that does not exceed R20,000.
- You can provide proof that you have been removed from the National Register of Sex Offenders or the National Child Protection Register (if relevant)
Step 2: Complete Form J744
If you meet the above preconditions, you can visit the Department of Justice’s website and complete the J744 form. When completing this form, you will need to fill in personal information like your ID number, name, surname, and contact details in addition to details relating to your convictions, including the types of convictions you’ve received and the dates when these convictions took place.
You can download the English version of the J744 form here.
Step 3: Attach Relevant Supporting Documentation
Before you submit your J744 form, you will need to attach a police clearance certificate. To get a police clearance certificate, you will need to pay a R150 fee, visit your nearest police station to have your fingerprints taken and complete the Police Clearance Certificate Application form. You will also need to provide a certified copy of your ID, and proof of payment if you’ve completed an EFT.
You can take these documents to SAPS, and they can post the application form, along with your fingerprints, to the Criminal Record and Crime Scene Management, or you can post it yourself using the details below.
The Head: Criminal Record and Crime Scene Management (For attention: Police Clearance Certificates)
Private Bag X308
It should take 15 days to receive your Police Clearance Certificate.
Step 4: Mail The Information
After you have received your PCC, you will either need to hand-deliver your documents or mail your documents to the Director-General for the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development.
If you decide to mail it, you can send it to:
Director-General: Department of Justice and Constitutional Development:
Private Bag X81,
The process takes three months but may take longer if you have any queries that could delay the process. Additionally, the decision to have the convictions expunged are at the discretion of the DG for the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development. If the outcome is favourable, the DG will send your certificate of Expungement to the Criminal Record Centre of the South African Police Service. After which, you should allow another 21 days before you receive confirmation of the convictions expunged.
But if it is declined, you will receive a confirmation letter detailing why it was denied.
If you have any additional queries regarding having your criminal record expunged, you can email the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development at email@example.com.