An expungement is a legal process that when court-ordered, it can seal the legal record of a criminal conviction or arrest. At times, it can also erase the record from being legally attained. During this process, the result can also be commonly referred to as “to set aside a criminal conviction”. State and county laws regulate the ability and process of an expungement. To apply for an expungement, the petition should be submitted to the corresponding jurisdiction in which the act occurred. In order to get a criminal conviction or arrest expunged, the interested petitioner should consider contacting an attorney who has the experience and knowledge of that particular state’s laws.
The Legal Effect of Obtaining an Expungement
When an expungement is successful, this typically means that the conviction and/or arrest have been sealed from the petitioner’s criminal record. An expungement has limited power, however, as there are agencies that will still have the ability to recover this information. Once an expungement has been finalized, the petitioner is not obligated to disclose that particular criminal conviction or arrest. For instance, a person applying for a job will be typically asked if he or she has prior arrests or criminal convictions. If the case has been expunged, the person is not obligated to disclose that information. Most employers will no longer have access to that information.
An expungement can also serve to propel from other forms of criminal background checks such as, but not limited to:
- College students applying for financial aid or other similar grants
- Individuals seeking to rent an apartment or other similar residential complex
- Individuals seeking to obtain employment
It is important to understand that a criminal record will continue to be visible to certain government agencies. An expungement will not completely eradicate the criminal record. In simple terms, an expungement will simply cover the record from view from most parties. Some agencies that will continue to have access to a criminal record include, but are not limited to:
- Criminal courts
- Law enforcement agencies
It is similarly important to understand that even an expunged criminal record can be considered as evidence against the holder. For example, a person who is being charged with a crime can face a harsher sentence due to the criminal record, even though the record was expunged. While this will not happen in every legal proceeding, it is still important to seek the advice of a professional attorney.
The eligibility of an expungement can depend on several factors. This may include, but is not limited to the following elements:
- The state or jurisdiction in which the crime and/or arrest occurred
- The nature of the charge and/or crime
- The amount of time since the conviction and/or arrest
- The individual’s criminal history
If a person is interested in getting a criminal record expunged, he or she should first check to see if the jurisdiction in which he or she resides in allows for expungements. There are certain jurisdictions that do not allow for criminal expungements. Obtaining the support of an experienced attorney can help in understanding what local rules and regulations apply to that specific case.
Criminal Record Expungement versus Criminal Record Seal
A record seal is very similar to that of an expungement. A seal, however, remains slightly more visible. A criminal record seal would mean that the record is not available to the general public. This could include the following:
- Credit companies
- Private investigators
Sealed records will continue to be considered as prior offenses in the event that the individual is arrested once again.
Obtaining an Expungement: The Process
A criminal record expungement is not a guarantee and it will also not be an automatic process. In order to begin the process, an interested person must petition for the expungement by filling out the proper application form. The application should be available in the court’s website where the criminal case will be reviewed. For example, in the State of California, the California Courts website will have information regarding the process, eligibility requirements, as well as the required forms. Once the application has been filled out and submitted, it will be reviewed by the corresponding criminal courts that will then make a decision. It should be noted that most jurisdictions require a fee that must be paid at the time when the application is submitted.
The process for an expungement can often be complicated. For instance, certain jurisdictions will require that the petitioner serve the papers to the appropriate district attorney’s office. Other jurisdictions, such as the State of Kansas, can require the petitioner to fill out a form known as an Order of Expungement that will then need to be signed by a judge. Additionally, some jurisdictions may require the petitioner to appear for a court hearing. In these jurisdictions, the judge will then decide if he or she will be granting the expungement.
One of the most challenging parts of an expungement process is obtaining the necessary documentation to file with the application. Many documents could be obtained at the corresponding district attorney’s office or from the court records. Finally, certain jurisdictions could require the signed approval for the expungement from the district attorney’s office before it is even considered by the courts. This process in itself can take plenty of time and effort to acquire.
Obtain Qualified Legal Representation
A criminal record expungement can have many different process methods. It can also have different levels of eligibility requirements. When petitioning for a criminal expungement, it is important to look into the jurisdiction where the case was prosecuted. Different states will require that certain amount of time has passed before a petitioner is eligible to file for an expungement. Finally, an expungement can have different effects, which also depends on the jurisdiction.
If you or someone you know is interested in petitioning for an expungement, it is important to contact an experienced expungement attorney. A criminal record expungement can be very beneficial and open many doors. If you are looking to advance your career, attend a certain school, or simply just clear your criminal record, a criminal record expungement can help.