Expungement: The Basics of Sealing Your Criminal Record
If you’ve been convicted of a crime, landing a quality job or finding an ideal rental property can often-times prove to be extremely difficult. If you find yourself in a situation where a background check is needed, and you are dreading what may pop up, expungement might be a good idea for you to pursue to seal your criminal record. With that being said, different states have contrasting laws and requirements for expungement eligibility. This depends on the nature of your crime, how long has it been since your conviction, and your previous criminal record, if any. If you have a juvenile record or a sex offense, there will be special requirements needed to file for an expungement depending on the state in which you were convicted.
*Please note in some states laws can differ by the county when it comes to expungement requirements. Record Gone is a great online source for determining your eligibility.
To start the expungement process you will first need to fill out and file a form or application. The court in which you are filing will have a list of documents needed. In most cases, you can obtain these documents from the county prosecutor’s office. Also, keep in mind you may first need to get approval from the prosecutor’s office before the court will hear your case. Again these rules vary by state so it’s best to spend a day at the county prosecutor’s office getting the necessary information directly from them.
Different states use different terminology like:
- Setting aside a conviction
- Expungement of records
- Cleaning your record with a dismissal
At the end of the day, these all essentially mean the same thing and produce the same result. If and when you do win an expungement decision the court will serve the papers to the department of corrections, your arresting agency, and your booking agency.
Remember you still need to convince the judge that you are worthy to have this erased from your record, so it is a good idea to hire a great criminal defense attorney and provide all information that shows you have moved past the incident and have behaved in a proper manner since. Perhaps have an employer or a colleague write a letter for you detailing your contributions to society and the positive impact you may be having on other people’s lives. This is especially important when it comes to having a felony expunged.
Felony expungements subsequently are much more difficult to obtain than misdemeanors. Severity or class of the felony, the state you were convicted in, and time passed since the arrest or conviction will all be factors during your expungement process. Most states require a one to five year period before you can file for a felony expungement. While after you have submitted your expungement and gone through the hearing process it can take anywhere from three months to one year depending on your case and the severity of it.
*If your felony does not qualify to be expunged you can still get a non-disclosure petition which potentially can block employers from viewing the felony on your record. One should hire a lawyer when dealing with a felony expungement and they can cost anywhere from around $1,500 to $3,000 considering what state you live in and what type of conviction you had.
If you are unable to afford an attorney, most states and counties provide free legal help. Best of luck in your expungement quest.