Outstanding Fines & Pardon Eligibility

Pardons - Pay Your Fines

Let’s get this out of the way. Court-ordered fines and surcharges do not go away, ever. They will always be considered outstanding fines.

There seems to be a common misconception that the courts will track a person down and force them to pay outstanding fine. This is false.

The court has no obligation to chase after a person who has been given a fine, restitution, compensation order, or surcharge in conjunction with a criminal conviction.

On the day that you were sentenced, you (or your lawyer) were given a document that instructed you how to pay your debt to the courts. That was your official notice and is sometimes the only warning a person will receive.

Some courts do send out reminders but many do not. And even those courts that do send out notices will eventually give up on a person. This only means that the court has decided that it has better things to do than to chase after you. It does not negate the fact that you were ordered to pay the fine in the first place.

Perhaps the confusion lies in that sentencing documents often iterate that failure to pay a fine will result in serving a certain number of days in jail.

This very rarely happens. The police cannot see whether a criminal fine has been paid or not on their systems so if they pull you over for speeding, for instance, they do not necessarily see anything relating to that fine you received in court.

We understand that it can be difficult to remember whether a fine was paid 20, 30, or even 40 years ago. If we discover that you have an outstanding amount with the courts during the course of our investigations, we will advise you immediately and, while your pardon may be delayed because of an unpaid fine, you will not “lose” the processing fees that you have already paid toward your file.

We simply place a hold on your file until you meet the pardon eligibility criteria established by the Parole Board and will submit your pardon at that time. 

When applying for a pardon you must not owe anything to the courts or to any victims involved in your conviction or your pardon will be delayed. Whether you contact the courts yourself or you have us do it for you, you will have to face these financial burdens at some point.

Do not assume that fines have been forgotten. They are on the books somewhere and they have a habit of turning up at the most inopportune times.

About Birgit Granberg


  • happy customer says:

    I can 100% agree with this statement. I thought I had all fines “paid” only to find that when applying for a pardon in 2007, the great people of the National Pardon Centre found an outstanding fine from 1997, 10 years ago…Well to make a story short, that fine was paid off in late 2007 and the centre has recetly applied for my Pardon…Was it worth the wait…Absoulutly….Thanks to all those who worked on my file!!

  • Aliya says:

    Hi I am presently applying for my pardon, I do have some speeding thickets and parking, would this affect me in any way of getting my pardon

  • Hi Aliya,

    Speeding and parking tickets will probably have to be paid off before the Parole Board will grant your pardon but they are not criminal fines so there is no wait period after they have been paid before you become eligible for your pardon.

    Please let me know if you have any other questions!


  • Rick Hopkins says:


    I was eligible to apply for my pardon in September 2010 and was getting ready to do so. Recently I recieved a letter from Revenue Services of British Columbia informing me I had two outstanding fines. (victim surcharge?) My charges were indictable and I was convicted. After my fines are paid, how long will I have to wait until I am elegible for my pardon?

    sincerly, Rick Hopkins

  • happy customer says:

    If the fine originated from a criminal conviction as you stated were Indictable, the wait time is 5 years from date paid.
    (Summary) 3 years.
    (Indictable) 5 years.

    I state these facts from memory but the wonderfull and knowledgable staff of the National Pardon Centre are best to answer for the record.

  • Hi Rick,

    You will likely have to wait 5 years before you become eligible for your pardon once your surcharges have been paid.
    Keep in mind that you will want to begin the application process at least one year before you actually become eligible as it can take a long time for us to gather all of the necessary info for your file.

    Please let me know if you have any other questions!


    • michelle butler says:


      My question is : I got a DUI over 2 years ago, I havent been notified or even sent out a single reminder or ticket. I did get a criminal record B/C if the charges tho, and also issued a $1000 fine in court. Im wanting to go to Vegas at the end of the month, but would have to cross the U.S border to fly out, do you think I will be stopped at the borderB/Cof my outstanding fine, and my DUI charge?

      Thank you


      • Hi Michelle,

        DUI is the one charge the Americans are quite tolerant of although I would suggest travelling with court documents to prove the nature of the offence if it comes up. They also have the right to refuse you if they want to. Ideally you would get a pardon before crossing but the law does say you are in your right to go. Best luck.


  • Canadian Girl 123 says:

    My daughter’s father left us when I was 4 months pregnant. He has 2 previous children that he does not know or support (as well as my child.) Over a year ago I filed for child support.. He settled out of court–ended up paying retro-active support, current support etc…He did not want to step foot into a court house… He owes the courts money (outstanding court ordered fines) from several DUI’s that he had more than 7 years ago… (Years before I met him) He does not have a drivers license. If such a person owes the courts $5000, what will happen if they go to court for another issue??? For example he has recently stopped paying child support and he has NOT fulfilled his part of the out of court settlement!! It is mandatory that he get life insurance on himself. It has been 8 months and no life insurance. So my lawyer called and said he’s making a court date! Will the courts approach him on the outstanding fines (court ordered) ???? Could he face sentencing??? or do they pick up on this.. I here that they wont chase you.. but dont put yourself in front of a judge?? Please I need some feed back… Thanks…

  • Hi Canadian Girl 123,

    The courts may not pick up on the outstanding fines, particularly if he is appearing at a different court house than where the fines originally came from. Another issue is that he probably won’t be appearing before a the criminal section but, rather, the family section of the court, even if it is in the same city as his earlier convictions. I suggest you mention this to your lawyer and see what he or she has to say about the situation.

    Good Luck!


  • Unfortunate Victim says:

    I recently began the process of applying for my pardon and had discoverred that I had a victim surcharge fine. I was never aware of this and contacted my defense lawyer and he even gave me in writing that he never told me of such a fine. The court documents do not show anywhere that I was imposed this fine, nor was it ever mentioned in the court proceedings. How am I at fault for not knowing about a fine that was never acknowledged to me nor was even informed about? I have since paid the fine but have made repeated trips to the court house to get a copy of any documentation that shows I had to pay such a fine.

    What can I do now to speed up my pardon process as I have been told I have to wait 5 yrs before I can put this behind me? Why does this fine have to affect my application for the pardon process?

  • Birgit Davidson says:


    Ooof. An outstanding surcharge is always a very frustrating situation because, often, a person has paid their fine in good faith but simply never realized that the surcharge existed. Unfortunately, there isn’t much that can be done in this type of scenario.

    The Criminal Records Act states the following:

    “4. A person is ineligible to apply for a pardon until the following period has elapsed after the expiration according to law of any sentence, including a sentence of imprisonment, a period of probation and the payment of any fine, imposed for an offence:”

    Because of this, they will not grant your pardon until your surcharge has been paid and you have waited the required period.

    The following link provides some additional information about victim fine surcharges:


    Furthermore, according to sec. 737(8) of the Criminal Code, the court must inform you by way of written notice of your surcharge so there has to be a court document out there somewhere that informed you of this charge. It IS possible that your lawyer never explained it to you properly (court documents can be very difficult to understand) but sadly that is not a valid excuse in the eyes of the Parole Baord for not having paid your surcharge. Unfortunately, unless you can get the court to put it in writing that they never issued you written notice of the surcharge, you will have to wait out your eligibility for your pardon.


  • justin says:

    i was wondering if u have a couple tickets that havent been paid and ur leaving from canada to the states they dont catch that do they?

  • Birgit Davidson says:

    Hi Justin,

    The US shouldn’t be able to tell if you have any unpaid fines unless you have an outstanding warrant.

    If you have outstanding criminal fines, the Court can actually issue a warrant for your arrest. This rarely happens, but the possibility is certainly there.

    Furthermore, if a person has a number of outstanding parking tickets, for example, the Crown can set a court date for you. If you fail to appear for that court date (which is a criminal charge), then a warrant can be issued for your arrest.

    If a warrant has been issued, then the US may be able to see this on their system and could detain you.


  • Angela says:

    I owe resitution still from 2000, and I am appling for a pardon now, does that mean I have to wait the waiting period again, and if so how long? I was charged with Theft of a visa card and using it.

  • Birgit Davidson says:

    Hi Angela,

    Your required wait period of 3, 5, or 10 years begins once you have finished paying restitution.


  • Tony says:

    I was charged and convicted and paid fines for said charges 25 years ago. Now in my attempts to get my pardon the provincial court pardons clerk now has my criminal record(do he have to release it to me ?) and says they have no record of fines being paid as a result of archive data transfer from paper to digital. What do I do? Stupid question here. The fee for pardons has now gone up Feb. 12 2012, because of mail strike my record check took almost a year to get back to me does the application for pardon process begin when you request your records or when you send in fee?

  • Hi Tony,

    Unfortunately, you will be subject to the new fee and to the new pardon eligibility rules.

    If the court simply cannot confirm whether the fine was paid or not, you can swear an affidavit attesting that it was paid 25 years ago and that should be enough for the Parole Board. If, however, the court shows that the fine was never paid then I’m afraid you have no choice but to pay it and then wait 5 or 10 years before you can submit your application for a record suspension.


  • Denise says:

    I have already sent my application off to the parole board…I received a confirmation of receipt but I think I might have a parking ticket in NS will this affect my application, could it be denied for this reason…

  • Birgit Davidson says:

    Hi Denise,

    I suggest you pay off the ticket asap! The Board now has sweeping discretionary powers over the granting of pardons… let’s not give them a reason to deny your application!


  • Jason says:

    Hello Birgit, first I want to say thanks for answering everyones questions. In doing so, you have answered many of mine.

    I was convicted of indidble offences in 1998. after i finished my year of parole, I asked my parole officer what about my fines. she said I had no fines, just community service and 1 year parole. I was certain I had fines. After 10 years past I for the first time heard about pardons. I was excited to apply. My job required a criminal record check, they were aware of my 1 and only convictions. my criminal record showed the fines as part of my sentencing. i received an application to apply for a pardon from a parole office I had work related ties to. the first question on the pardon request form asked something like; “Have you ever been convicted of a crime where fines have been levied against you in the past fifteen years?”. the workers at the parole office told me if anyone could legitemately answer no to that question, then the date of their conviction would be confirmed and they would pretty much be “rubber stamped” a pardon. is that true? in Feb. 2013 it will have been 15 years since I was convicted. Isn’t there a statue of limitations on my fines? hence their first question on the pardon request form? thanks for any help.

  • Birgit Davidson says:

    Hi Jason,

    Thanks for the kind words!

    Prior to 2010, the Parole Board only required that applicants provide fine payment information if the fine was issued within the past 15 years. After Bill C 23A passed in July 2010, however, that all changed. The Board now requires proof of payment for all fines, regardless of how old they are.

    Sorry to hear that you were misinformed, Jason. Let this be a lesson to all that the most reliable way to verify the status of your fines is to contact the court where you were convicted.



  • Mary says:

    I applied for a pardon, spent 500.00 so far only to find out my fines were paid but a surcharge of 50.00 was not paid 15 yrs ago and that I now have to wait another 5 yrs to apply again. I wasted 500.00 so far. Why do the courts not advise you of this when you pay your fines. This was for a dui. which I foolishly had a lawyer take care of. so my dui cost me $5,000 15 yrs ago and I still cannot get this removed for another 5 yrs. This cost me my job as well. I will be a senior in 5 yrs. so I do not see the point in applying again. I am sure I,m not the only one that this has happened to. Does the Parole board seriously believe that people just leave these surcharges unpaid after the fines are paid to purposely ruin any chances for a pardon. I believe pardons are a scam and it is definitely time for a change in government. Yet child molesters like Graham James get pardoned and Conrad Black bilks millions out of the Canadian people and are welcomed with open arms into this country. Whats wrong with this system. I guess it depends on how much money you have.

  • Birgit Davidson says:

    Hi Mary,

    I can definitely appreciate your frustration and I do wish that the Parole Board would make some allowances for people who have small outstanding surcharges but unfortunately their policy is firm.


  • Mcdood says:

    I have been in arrears for child support for some time i lost my job in 08 and went back to school now am working. My support accumulated durring this time and i am struggling to pay it off is this going to affect my chances at getting a pardon? If so is there any way i can get the arrears set up to a payment plan so i can get a pardon?

  • Birgit Davidson says:

    Hi Mcdood,

    This could affect your ability to receive a pardon if it comes to the attention of the Parole Board. It isn’t a criminal fine, however, so setting up some sort of schedule for payments may satisfy them. You should speak with a lawyer or the court regarding a payment plan.


  • sandra says:

    Hi, i’m completely frustrated at the way things work. I have applied in sept 2010. At that moment, the price to get a pardon fast was $631 (something like that) Since then the price has doubled. What i dont understand is why am i put at the end of the list because i supposly didnt pay the $600 somewhat $$ to the federal so that they could treat my demand faster then the ones that payed the minimum price. That means that i’ll never get my pardon. Also, i was told that its because of the new law that came out in febuary 2011 i think that the gouverment decided he was going to treat the demands that he got payed for (600$ somewhat $$) I signed for a pardon with the price at (that moment) of $631 for a rush pardon. I’m insulted and will consult because, theres something wrong here. i purchased a service at a price and now its like if i didnt pay so i dont get service.

  • Birgit Davidson says:

    Hi Sandra,

    I, too, question the logic of the 2-tier pardon system that the government has introduced. Sadly, it seems that money talks in this country.

    Please rest assured that you will still get your pardon even though it was submitted under the old fee. They are trickling in slowly but surely.


  • confused says:

    im confused here
    my five years have passed to apply for my pardon ,but i just found out i have unpaid fines
    does that mean i have to wait ANOTHER five years to apply?

  • Birgit Davidson says:

    Hi Confused,

    Yes. You have to pay all fines, restitutions, surcharges, etc. and then wait 5 or 10 years (depending on the type of offence) before you can apply for your pardon. Unfortunately, there is no way around this requirement.


  • Alan says:

    I too have been given the bait and switch of the “victim surcharge fine of $50″. I paid my $500 fine back in 1995. Recently applied for my pardon and am now being told about this mystery surcharge. Certainly I was not assessed such a charge 17 years ago, I paid all fines that were levied in my judgement in full. When I inquired about it I was told their must have been some sort of letter sent me about this (which there was not) after the fact.

    You mentioned that all fines have a court record of a letter being sent. When I asked about this mystery letter I was told they have no idea where the record of this letter is, but they assume it must have been sent to me.

    Where does the burdern of proof lie? If the courts cannot produce a record of this letter ever being sent to me does that clear my way for a pardon without having to wait another 5 years?

    • Kyle Pistawka says:

      Hi Alan,

      I understand how frustrating this whole situation must be and unfortunatley it is a common senario that we see every day as you can see by previous blog posts. Basically it boils down to that unless you can prove the surcharge was paid back in 1995, you would have to pay it now and wait the 5 years. The Parole Board and the law surrounding pardons are very firm that all fines must be paid and the 5/10 year wait time must apply to all fines. I wish I had better news for you.

      Best of Luck.


      • Alan says:

        Perfect. A little hard to prove I paid a fine I was never given! Am I wrong in my assessment that this is a poorly veiled ploy by the government to make pardons hard to get? It seems pretty strange that they would assess these surcharge fines after the fact of the court date and then keep quiet about them for 20 years. There is no other government fine where they don’t ensure payment by way of an arrest warrant, attaching them to a motor vehicles renewal, a tax refund etc…

        Seems to me like the only way one would know about these phantom fines is to have the knowledge of this swindle and proactively ask the courts about them.

        • paul says:

          Hi, I started the process for a pardon in October 2010. i have since learned that i indeed still had an unpaid fine. I have tried several time without success to settle this fine however the courts are adamant that there is no way for me to pay this fine as it has been written off. This is fine and dandy however it seems i cannot go through the final phase of applying for a pardon without paying this fine. Has anyone ever heard off or dealt with a similar situation?. I am seriously going around in circles with no light in sight.

  • Kyle Pistawka says:

    Hi Paul,

    That is a terrible situation indeed. This is definitely a rare situation, but I have seen this before and the courts should be able to “reverse” the fine being written-off, which would allow you to pay it. If that does not work then I would suggest having the court give you something in writing stating that they have “written-off” the fine and therefore they are unable to let you pay it and that the court considers the matter closed. Then present that to the Parole Board of Canada with your application. I would suspect that asking them to provide you something in writing that they do not want the money should help get them to allow you to pay the fine.

    Best of Luck,


  • Taylor says:

    A friend of mine is leaving to Jamaica. He has an unpaid ticket for driving with his vehicle uninsured from 4 years ago will this affect him at the air port ?

  • Al says:

    I just applied for a pardon found out I have an unpaid speeding ticket from 20 yrs ago which I was sure I paid , for some strange reason they have no record of this no surprise it will affect me now I have to wait another 5 yrs before I can reapply this is really stupid , I thought the people of Canada would have a say on the laws that get passed or changed since the government is suppose to work for the people and the people have to agree with all the changes they are doing , I thought everyone deserves a second chance in life , not accourding to this government unless you are rich , at least other countries have statues of limitations on things like this , they say canada was suppose to follow British law which does have statues of limitations my question is do we live in Canada or Russia ???
    Is there anything I can do about this situation of the unpaid fine I’m almost 50 to have to wait another 5 yrs over something this trivial I don’t understand this is discrimination !!! Because of 1 mistake take a lifetime to try and fix not worth it any suggestion on what to do


    • Hi Al,

      I would be inclined to agree with you but unfortunately we have a Conservative government in power in Ottawa and they would see things a different way. I don’t know of any resolution to this short of a court challenge.

      Kind regards,


  • horst says:

    I had a dui and a 1000 dollar fine back in 2006. I never renewed my license and moved to the states in 2010. I’m pretty sure I payed my fine but not sure. If I went back to Canada to visit can I get refused at the border or stopped in Canada for this unpayed fine??I do have a valid license in the US.

  • Ray says:

    I been convicted of fined of 700$ in my country last year … If i get the pardon in my country brfore 5 years can i enter canada ?

    • Hi Ray,

      This is more of an immigration question but my understanding is that if you have a pardon from your home country Canada would recognize it and you would be permitted to enter.

      Kind regards,


  • Tammy says:

    I have a criminal fine from 1994. I paid the fine in 2011. I was so looking forward in 8 months from now to apply for my pardon. I was searching the PBC website and to my dismay the 3 year waiting period has been dropped. Now do I have to wait another 2 years and 8 months before I can apply for a Record Suspension as they now call it?

    • Hi Tammy,

      Sadly yes, you do have to wait the extra time. You can thank Stephen Harper and the Conservative government. Of course you can begin the paperwork now and at a minimum I suggest starting a year in advance but we can’t get around the eligibility date.

      Kind regards,


  • Karl says:

    Hi, i recieved a letter in the post recentley regarding a speeding fine in feb 2008. The courts have now passed it onto a debt collector over night with extra charges. Do i have to pay or has it expired? Need advice please, cheers

  • Patti says:

    I am a travel agent and have a client who needs a passport to travel to Mexico with his family, He has outstanding fines for a DUI and a suspended licence , I am not sure if these need to be cleared before he can get a passport. Thank you in advance for your help

    • Hi Patti,

      your client can get a passport, that is not a problem. I would suggest to your client however that clearing up that fine, etc is important if he ever wants to be able to obtain a pardon.

      kind regards,


  • Angela says:

    Hi, I was charged in 2007 and did 2 years probation. Did all of my probation, and went into the court where I was charged to pay my 1400 restitiution fine. At the time, I was told at the head office where you pay all fine, that the restitiuion order had no time paying period, and they told me is was not payable unless the bank ” to be filed in civil court ” otherwise there was nothing to pay. They had nothing for me to pay, so that I couldn’t pay it there. So I went down to civil court and there was nothing filed. Over the past few years, I have gone down to the civil court , but nothing has been filed…it’s been 7 years. I am still very confused that the court would of told me, that there was nothing to pay, but I thought they must know what they are talking about …. I recently started to begin the process of a pardon, ordered my court papers, and scratched at the very bottom of it the actual stamped court papers states” free standing compensation order to the bank ” I can’t believe that we actually went to the court, with money in hand, and the civil courts, and I guess not understanding the total process, as it’s very confusing….I am sure the bank has written off this by now, and not sure where to go and what to do…do you see anything in here that could help…..

  • Marl says:

    I was recently stoped for a DUI , I’ve been to my preliminary & arraignment hearings, sentencing will be on the 2/5/2015. In the meantime I applied for the ARD program to be refused due to my licence being suspended, I’m told the suspension is due to an unpaid speeding fine from 20 years ago. If I pay this fine & submit a re-application for ARD I will bro reconsidered or would I have to be pardoned first? I have a Uk/European licence, both incidents were whilst I was on vacation., the DUI is my first offence.

    • Michael Ashby says:

      Hi Marl,

      I am afraid this isn’t my area of expertise. Motor vehicle laws vary from province to province.

      Kind regards,


  • Karen says:

    Hi, I recently received my court information form completed by the Alberta courts as it pertains to my record suspension . The results indicate that I have a small balance owing of $20 from a $200 fine I am certain I would have paid the fine in full however it’s been more than 20 years since the offense and almost 20 years since I’ve left the province unfortunately I do not have proof of payment. Can you provide the following answers please;

    1. once this fine has been paid, do I need to have another court information form completed which will include the present date?
    2. will my record suspension be denied due to this outstanding fee and current payment date?
    3. re there any additional step’s that I should be taking ?

    Any assistance you can provide will be greatly appreciated.

    • Michael Ashby says:

      HI Karen,

      I’m very sorry but here is the bad news. The Parole Board will consider that outstanding $20 as part of your sentence. Since the sentence was technically not completed because of the outstanding amount you will have to wait another 5 or 10 years from the day that is fine paid to apply for your pardon.

      This is, of course, ludicrous but it happens all the time. In the past any fine that was over 15 years old didn’t require proof of payment. But thanks to the Conservative government you are stuck waiting for a long time before you can get that criminal record sealed.

      Sorry to be the bearer of bad news. If you need to cross the border a waiver is still an option to you. Give me a call if you would like to discuss.

      Kind regards,

      866.242.2411 x 227

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