For those with a criminal record, it can sometimes be difficult to rewrite
history. Some employers still ask criminals to check a box saying they
have a prior conviction, and are thus unlikely to be hired. Landlords
might even discriminate on this basis, by refusing to rent an apartment
out. A criminal record for even a small offense can be distressing and
hinder your chances of moving on. In some cases for the lucky few, an
option called “expungement” may be available.
What is expungement?
Expungement is the sealing of criminal arrest or conviction records, or
even erasure of them. Once a criminal charge is expunged, it does not
need to be disclosed to landlords, employers, or anyone else who asks
if you have a criminal conviction. It is truthful to say you have never
been convicted of a criminal offense, and this may allow you to breathe
easier when applying for loans, jobs, apartments, etc.
Do I qualify for expungement?
Expungement may be conditionally offered to certain offenders, and is usually
reserved for those who:
- Were not actually convicted of the crime
- Committed a low-severity crime
- Committed the crime a long time ago
- Have successfully completed the terms of sentencing
- Do not have an extensive criminal record
Expungement will almost never be offered for a violent crime or sex felony.
However, depending on the previous criminal record and whether an applicant
for expungement has kept a clean record post-arrest, many misdemeanor
charges and even second-degreefelonies can be expunged.
Depending on the complexities of the crime, you might need a criminal lawyer
to help you apply for expungement, especially because you do not want
your request to be denied. Call our office with questions about getting
a charge removed from your record.
What are the limits of expungement?
There are occasions in which previous charges will come to light, depending
on the individual asking and the circumstances. Some are obvious, especially
when dealing with another run-in with the law.
If you want to apply for expungement, you can only do so once. Thus, if
you attempt to apply twice the court will still be able to see the first
charge. It is not a deletion of your record, but merely a sealing to the
If you do happen to commit another crime, the sentence might also increase
because of a prior conviction. This means that if you happen to steal
something worth less than $500, you would typically be charged with petty
theft. However, if the prosecutor checks your record, he or she will still see
the expunged record and can charge you with “petty
theftwith a prior”. Its important to remember that expungement is not a
tabula rasa, but a chance to present yourself in a better light to members of the public.
In certain professions your expunged record may come out. For example,
to be a government worker, public school teacher, police officer, or corrections
officer, your employer will have access to expunged records.
The benefits of expungement can greatly increase your odds of getting a
typical job or being treated fairly in application situations. For help
beginning this sometimes tricky process, call our office and ask to discuss
expungement. It could the fresh start you need.