When will my petty theft record disappear?

“I have recently completed my tertiary education and I am now looking for work, but I can’t get any because I have a criminal record. The record was for petty theft that I commited more than ten years ago and for which I received a R500 fine. Can my criminal record be removed?”

A criminal record can be expunged from the records of the Criminal Records Centre after a period of ten years has elapsed from the date of conviction for that offence, should the offender not commit another offence and have been sentenced to a period of imprisonment without the option of a fine during the ten year period subsequent to such conviction and sentence. 

The removal of the criminal record is in line with the principle of restorative justice enshrined in our legal system and which affords offenders a second chance. The provisions of section 271D of the Criminal Procedure Act 51 of 1977 determines the process for the expunging of a criminal record. 

Sections 271A to 271C provide an indication of the sort convictions and sentences that the offender should be given in order to qualify for their criminal record to be expunged. In your case, your petty theft conviction and sentence falls under Section 271B as it relates to a sentence of a fine only, that does not exceed R20,000.

The process to be followed is:

You must approach a police station in order to obtain a clearance certificate which shows that a period of ten years has lapsed after the conviction and sentencing. 
Once a clearance certificate has been obtained, you must obtain and fill in the applicable application forms, which can be obtained on the internet. There are forms which must be filled in depending on whether the conviction and sentence fall within section 271A, 271B or 271C of the Criminal Procedure Act. In your case, your offence falls under section 271B and you will therefore have to fill in Form A of the application papers.
Once you have fully completed the application, it must be sent to the Director-General for Justice and Constitutional Development, who will check whether you fit the criteria for expungement of the criminal record, and should you meet the requirements, will issue a Certificate of Expungement.
The Certificate of Expungement will be sent to the head of the Criminal Records Centre of the SAPS, ordering the criminal record to be expunged.
Once the Certificate of Expungement has been received, the Criminal Records Centre must expunge the criminal record from the system.
This is not the end of the road though, as you will only be informed of the expungement upon a written request to the head of the Criminal Records Centre.

Identifying the section under which a specific offence falls can get tricky and result in the incorrect procedure being followed to expunge a criminal record. It is therefore wise to obtain legal advice prior to beginning with the process and then during the process to assist you in ensuring that your record is confirmed as expunged by the Criminal Records Centre.

November 9, 2016
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