In Canada, a conditional discharge, pursuant to section 730 of the Criminal Code of Canada, is a sentence in which an individual is found guilty of an offence but is deemed not to have been convicted. The court can therefore make a finding of guilt without having to register the conviction on the persons record. This means that the accused does not have a criminal record in a literal reading of the phrase. The court will grant a conditional discharge if it considers it to be in the best interest of the accused and not contrary to the public interest.
When granted a conditional discharge, the offender is not punished, provided they comply with certain conditions. The offender is put on probation for a period of up to three years. After these conditions are met, the discharge becomes absolute. If the conditions are not met, the defendant is re-sentenced.
Although a discharge is not considered a conviction, a record of a conditional discharge is kept by Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC). However, according to the Criminal Records Act, this record is purged from the individual's police record after a period of time, that being three years after the offender was discharged on the conditions prescribed in a probation order. Therefore, while no conviction occurs, the offender is required to fulfill certain conditions as part of the sentence. If the offender fails to meet the conditions of the probation, or commits another criminal offence during the probation period, they may be returned to court and could receive a criminal conviction and sentence on the original offence, along with a sentence for breach of probation.
If the conditions of the discharge are met it becomes an absolute discharge.
A court may grant a conditional discharge only for offences with no minimum penalty, and a maximum penalty of less than fourteen years. A conditional is most appropriate for individuals who are first time offenders or have little to no criminal record.