If you made a mistake in the past that has haunted you ever since, there’s hope. With a criminal record expungement, you may be able to completely clear your criminal record and set a course for a brighter future.
But how exactly does this process work?
And what steps do you need to take to pursue it?
The Basics of Criminal Record Expungement
Criminal record expungement works by removing all public records of a specific crime – and it applies to an arrest, a conviction, or both. Note that this isn’t going to remove all traces of the crime; it simply makes it impossible for the general public to access records associated with it. Law enforcement agencies and criminal courts can still find and review records of the crime.
The main benefit of this process is that public records of your crime will no longer be available, so you’ll no longer have to worry about a criminal background appearing in background checks from people like employers or landlords. Accordingly, if your criminal record has been totally expunged, you can apply for a job and assert that you have not been convicted of a crime in the past.
Generally speaking, you’ll need a criminal expungement lawyer to follow the process necessary for your criminal record expungement. Expungement laws and criminal laws in general can get very complex, and laws vary from state to state, so it’s important to have a professional on your side, guiding you through the process.
The Expungement Process
The expungement process looks different in different areas. Each state has specific rules and guidelines for how expungement works, so the process in California isn’t going to be the same as the process in Delaware, for example.
But for the most part, criminal record expungement unfolds something like this:
· Qualification. First, you need to make sure you qualify for expungement. Depending on the state in which you live, you may be legally obligated to fulfill certain conditions. For example, you may only be considered for expungement if this is a first-time offense. You may also only qualify for expungement if you have served all time associated with the crime, if you’ve paid all your fines, and if you’re in good standing with the law. Make sure you contact a criminal expungement lawyer so you fully understand the conditions for qualification before proceeding.
· Filing a petition. If you do qualify for expungement, you’ll usually need to fill out a petition or application for the court. This is some paperwork designed to officially bring this matter to the court’s attention. In it, your lawyer will help you argue why your record should be expunged and provide all information necessary to help the court make a final decision.
· Presenting the case. You may also need to present your case to a judge. If this is the case, you’ll need a competent and persuasive lawyer to help convince the judge that your record should be expunged. Most of the time, a simple and straightforward request isn’t going to cut it; you need to convince the court that you’re no longer at risk of committing another crime and that you genuinely want to move on in living a good life.
· Managing a denial. Even with a persuasive case and a competent lawyer at your side, there’s still a chance that your petition will be denied. If the court reject your request, or deems you to be ineligible for expungement, there are some other options available to you. Your lawyer will be able to introduce you to these options, which include applying for a pardon or having your records sealed and destroyed.
Do note that if you’re convicted of a crime in the future, your past criminal history will likely need to be exposed both privately and publicly; recidivism has the potential to effectively “undo” the expungement.
How to Start a Criminal Record Expungement
Do you have a criminal background or an arrest on your record that you’d like removed?
First, make sure you’re in good standing with the law. You’re not going to have your criminal record expunged if you’re currently being accused of another crime or if you still owe significant fines. It’s important to stay clean and serve your punishment, if necessary.
Once you’ve done this, you’ll be prepared to talk to a lawyer. A criminal expungement lawyer will help you understand the process, inside and out, it will help you prepare the necessary paperwork to begin petitioning the court. Come prepared with questions so you can better understand the process and remain involved throughout the next steps.
You aren’t guaranteed to have your criminal record expunged just because you petitioned the court. But if you’re successful in this endeavor, you can set yourself up for a brighter future.