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-degreefeloniescan 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 general public.
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.