If you have been convicted of a crime, you wish to conceal past arrests and convictions in order to protect your image, your family, your career, and everything and everybody you love.
Moreover, a criminal record can prevent you from getting a decent job or being approved for a bank loan. Employers and landlords can easily have access to your criminal record when they try to check and see if you have a clean slate.
Expungement is the closure or “cleaning” of your criminal record. While your case gets expunged the law prevents your information from being disclosed to the public.
Every state has enacted laws that allow people to expunge arrests and convictions from their records. Each state has its own requirements for record expungement eligibility. All the states have enabled people to file for the expungement process and a few states don’t provide expungement for felonies.
Expungement are issued by judges and may be available only after you have finished serving your sentence, including any term of probation. Sometimes, the period of probation may be shortened by the judge. Some states require the completion of community services, rehabilitation, counseling, and the trial period without incident.
You are eligible only after a certain period of time which is usually between 1 and 3 years after completing the sentence. People who have been arrested or convicted for drug crimes, first-offense cases, and juvenile offenders (once the minor reaches the age of 18) may have an easier path to expungement. Some jurisdictions automatically seal records after the minor turns the age of 18.
People arrested for drug offenses may be eligible for diversion programs, after the completion of a drug or alcohol treatment program. In first-offense cases, you first must complete probation, jail time, or community service and fines.
You have to approach the legal agency that handled your case to find out if you are eligible to apply for expunging records. Getting a Certificate of Actual Innocence is often the highest form of criminal record expungement. It seals a conviction or arrest from a person’s criminal record and it proves that a record should never have existed at all. The cerificate is for people arrested for charges not commited, or later dropped. It’s also important to get copies of your criminal record because some states require or recommend it. The court will send you a hearing date.
Expunged records are inaccessible to the general public. Certain government entities might access the record. The record doesn’t disappear entirely, but it’s difficult to view it without a court order. However, legal agencies like police departments will have access to your crime records.
On the other side, sealed records are quite different from expungement, because the record is sealed and it still exists. Even though, neither type of record is available to the general public, via any state or federal repository.
Expungement are also different from pardons, issued by governors, secretaries of state, attorney generals, and sometimes even the president of the United States. Pardon means you have been forgiven for the crime you have been convicted for.
The expungement process usually gets long and complicated. Many crimes can be expunged from your record only with the help of a competent expungement State attorney. You will need to consult a criminal defense lawyer in the state where the crime happened, to find out which laws may be applicable to you.
An experienced attorney knows whether or not you are guilty of the charges, can give advice on the consequences of conviction, including whether it can be expunged later on and how an expunging can benefit or limit you.