Have you ever thought about the consequences that a criminal record could have on any future overseas trips you were planning on taking?
Imagine being restricted on which countries you could visit next time you go on a holiday.
Getting a criminal record has obvious consequences – the potential impact on your job and future job prospects may be foreseeable but you might not have considered whether it could also affect your ability to travel overseas.
A criminal conviction can make this a real possibility – or at least mean that travelling becomes very difficult.
Fortunately, if you are charged with a crime that may result in a criminal conviction, there are ways to avoid this.
If you plead guilty, you can apply for your case to be dealt with under a section 10 dismissal of the Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act.
Under a section 10 dismissal, (a special provision that allows the court discretion to dismiss the charges) you can avoid getting a criminal conviction at all, meaning your travelling ability will not be hindered.
So, what effects could a potential criminal record have on your ability to travel?
This will largely depend on the country you wish to travel to, and what the offence was.
The United States, for example, is very strict when it comes to granting entry to people with a conviction.
Australians wanting to travel to America with a criminal record are advised by the Embassy of the United States in Australia to apply for a visa well before you plan on travelling.
The outcome of a visa application is uncertain before you have an interview, where your eligibility will be determined.
If you are found ineligible, it is possible to get a waiver, but this is time consuming (it can take around five months for approval) and success is not guaranteed.
Whether or not an application for a waiver is successful or not will depend on the nature and severity of the offence and how recently it occurred.
This does not include minor traffic violations like speeding, and if you have a drink driving conviction, generally you do not need to apply for a visa as long as you are otherwise eligible.
Some criminal offences will make you ineligible to immigrate to the US.
But again, remember that avoiding a criminal conviction can eliminate the hassle and restrictions on travel. The uncertain, expensive and time-consuming process can be avoided.
With a section 10 dismissal, travel to other countries may not be affected at all.
Successfully getting a section 10 dismissal is possible if the court believes that it would reduce the likelihood of the person convicted committing further offences and allows the person to keep their good name.
Things that the court takes into account include factors such your character, age, health, mental condition, the nature of your offence and any extenuating factors that were present at the time you committed the offence.
An extenuating factor is something out of the ordinary that can partly explain why someone committed an offence.
While section 10 dismissals are available for all charges, it is much more likely to be awarded for less serious cases.
However, this does not automatically mean that more serious ones cannot be dealt with under a section 10 dismissal if there are very good reasons for doing so.
If you need to travel for work, obtaining a section 10 dismissal may be an essential part of the case you want argued before a magistrate.
A good lawyer will be able to present your case in the strongest way to ensure best possible chances of you end up criminal record-free.
A section 10 dismissal may be your ticket to travel, literally!