Criminal Law

When Expunging Criminal Records Is a Good Idea

Everyone makes mistakes. But when the mistake results in an arrest or criminal conviction, it can haunt you for the rest of your life. Being convicted of a crime or sometimes just being arrested on charges is enough to bar you from certain types of employment, joining the military, enrolling into schools, and living in public housing. When faced with a lifetime of limited opportunities, it makes sense to consult a criminal attorney about getting your record expunged.

What Is Expungement?

Expungement is simply the process of sealing your conviction records. The specifics will vary from one state to another. But generally, most state laws provide that once an arrest or conviction record is expunged, it can't be disclosed to landlords or employers.

Who Is Eligible for Expungement?

Whether you can get your records expunged depends on a number of factors. These include:

  • Your state laws
  • The nature of the crime you are trying to expunge
  • How much time passed since you were convicted of the crime

When Is Expungement a Good Idea?

Expungement is a great opportunity for you to start over. Expungement allows your criminal records to be cleared up and generally not available for the public. But there are some factors you need to take into account before starting the expungement process.

How Easy Is it to Expunge My Records?

Juvenile records are usually the easiest to expunge and may be sealed in most cases. Some criminal records, on the other hand, are very hard or impossible to expunge. These include murder, sex crimes, or serious assaults. In some jurisdictions, only arrests that didn't result in convictions can be expunged, while others allow convictions to be expunged as well. So, make sure to research the laws in your state to see whether you can expunge your records.

Expungement Doesn't Erase Everything

It is important to note that successfully expunging your criminal records does not necessarily mean that it disappears forever. Certain entities and individuals like law enforcement agencies and prosecutors may be able to introduce evidence of prior convictions if someone with an expunged record is arrested and prosecuted for another criminal offense.

However, generally speaking, once you had a conviction expunged from your record, it means most entities can't access the conviction. This means that future employers and landlords cannot access these records.

How Does the Expungement Process Work?

The expungement process may vary based on your state laws. But generally, the first thing your attorney will likely do is run a background check on you to see what shows up. If a conviction occurred many years ago, there is a chance that it is not readily available, although with the computerization of records these days, those cases are indeed rare.

Once your attorney has a clear picture of what is holding you back, they can file a motion for expungement in the court where you were convicted.

After your attorney files the petition, there will likely be a hearing before a judge. You may face questions about the circumstances surrounding your conviction. Your attorney can prepare you for some of the questions that are likely to be asked so that you don't get blindsided in court. If the expungement is granted, the judge can then order law enforcement agencies, courts, and reporting agencies to seal their records to future inquiries.