The Basics of Expunging Criminal Records

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The Basics of Expunging Criminal Records

25 January 2021
 Categories: , Blog

It can feel like more than enough punishment to serve jail time and pay fines. Even once you've moved beyond all of that, you may end up with a criminal record hanging over your head. This can create problems for folks applying for everything from jobs to housing.

Fortunately, there is a process for asking the court to remove arrests or convictions from a person's record. Criminal record expungement law makes it possible for people to move forward. Let's look at the basics of how expungement works.

1. Eligibility

You must be eligible to have your record expunged before the court will consider your petition. Folks who were arrested for offenses but never convicted are eligible once the cases against them are completely dismissed.

Those who've been convicted of crimes usually face a longer process. First, you'll have to have completed any jail or prison time the court has orders. Second, all probation terms must be met. Finally, you must complete payment of all restitution and fines, including any penalties and arrearages.

2. Filing

As with anything in the legal system, you can expect to file a formal petition in writing. You must send the petition to the state jurisdiction where you were convicted. Also, there will be a nonrefundable filing fee.

It's a good idea to have a criminal record expungement attorney assist you with filling out the paperwork. A lawyer may also be helpful if the court sends you any requests or questions. This helps the judge to clarify what your situation is in case there are concerns about your conduct since these items showed up on your record.

3. Limits on Expungement

Not all convictions are eligible for expungement. Generally, any offense that someone would want to know about years down the road isn't eligible. This means things like child endangerment or abuse, elder abuse, sexual assaults, arsons, and terrorism. Similarly, most convictions for crimes that result in deaths or serious disfigurements of victims are not eligible.

4. Seal

Ultimately, an expungement doesn't make the criminal record go away. Instead, the judge will place it under seal. The police can still ask the court to look under the seal if they believe there is relevant information there to current offenses. The seal only stops people outside the legal system, such as potential employers or landlords doing background checks, from looking.

The only exception is if the court awards you a certificate of actual innocence. This is a document that affirms you are innocent of all of the allegations.