A criminal record can produce downward spiraling consequences, whether the record is for having been arrested, charged, or convicted. For example, employers and landlords are commonly known to ask job applicants and rental applicants whether they have ever been convicted of (or possibly even arrested for) a criminal offense. Employers might not hire and landlords might not rent to people who answer “yes” to these questions. The good news is that, in some cases, you may be able to get an arrest, charge, or conviction expunged from your record.
Understanding What is an Expungement
Expungement is known as the process of sealing an arrest, charge, conviction, and related records from the public eye. Virtually every state has enacted laws that permit people to expunge arrests, charges, and convictions from their records. Though the details may differ from one state to another, most state laws provide that once an arrest or conviction has been expunged, it need not be disclosed, including to potential employers or landlords. For example: Let us suppose that Jonah was convicted for petty theft and later on had the conviction expunged. This was Jonah’s only encounter with the criminal justice system. If Jonah applies for a job and the application asks, “Have you ever been convicted of a criminal offense?” Jonah can honestly answer, “No.”
Eligibility for Expungement
Not every conviction or person qualifies for expungement. Many states are extending expungement eligibility. So it is always good to check the state laws when applying for expungement.
What May Be Involved in Expungement Process
When going through an expungement it may not necessarily demand that you retain a criminal attorney. Several courts have forms and instructions accessible online or at the courthouse. Normally, a person must complete the paperwork (such as an expungement petition), file the paperwork with the court and the prosecutor’s office, and sometimes pay a filing fee. The following step requires attending a court hearing.
Each state uses its own procedures, which can vary by offense, disposition, and other factors. While many states are working to make the process easier (and even automatic in some places), it can take some time and effort to get the expungement completed. If any assistance is required, you might want to consider talking to an attorney or even a legal aid organization.
Will an Expungement Erase My Record Forever?
Very few states actually destroy an expunged record. Typically, expunging a record means to seal it from the public view, preventing prospective employers, landlords, licensing boards, and the general public from seeing a criminal record.
Instead of destroying the record, most states make it confidential so the public is unable to see it, but can still be used by judges, law enforcement, and prosecutors for any future criminal charging or sentencing decisions. Particular state employers or licensing boards may also ask the court to open an expunged record when a person applies for a sensitive position, such as working in a daycare, nursing home, or criminal justice agency.
Expungement is applicable to government records. Whatever information is out there in the newspapers, on social media, or in private databases will more than likely remain unless you request that it is taken down.
When to Contact an AttorneyIt is best to contact an attorney if you do not feel comfortable going through the process of expunging your criminal records alone or if you are overwhelmed and stressed out.Call Gambacorta Law Office at 847 443 9303 for assistance.