A criminal record or arrest in the past can haunt you and make your life difficult. The smallest of criminal records could hinder getting a job or finding a place to rent. Even if you were not convicted under a criminal case, a history of the arrest or criminal prosecution remains. Most employers and landlords dictate individuals to sign a self-declaration form that states they do not have a criminal record or detention in the past. The good news is that the records can be sealed away from public view. However, the process can be complex and arduous. Hiring an expungement attorney can speed the process and aid you in overcoming difficult situations.
Expungement, also known as expunction, is a court order that erases an individual’s legal record associated with a criminal conviction or an arrest in essence. In actuality, the arrest and conviction records are sealed away from public view. Expungement laws vary from state to state and can even vary from county to county. Expunging arrests and conviction records empowers individuals to legally deny being convicted or arrested when questioned by an employer or a landlord.
Record sealing and expungement differ from each other because in the former case, the criminal record exists both in the physical and legal sense. In the case of expungement, the record of the arrest or criminal charge is deleted completely. For instance, it is a typical procedure to seal juvenile criminal proceedings once an individual turns 18. However, these records can still be accessed using court orders. Expunging these records means they cannot be accessed even through court orders.
Expunging conviction records is rarely allowed by the law. The option for expungement is only available in cases where the criminal proceedings were dismissed or where the proceedings ended in some form of a deferred disposition. On the other hand, a pardon is granted to an individual convicted or adjudged guilty of a crime. A pardon results in the forgiveness of a person for an offense and cancels any remaining punishment.
An individual’s criminal records continue to remain in the public view after a pardon is granted. Some states and jurisdictions allow pardoned individuals to file for expungement. Besides this, the authority to grant a pardon lies in the hands of the President for federal crimes and state governors for state-level criminal offenses. The power of ordering the expungement of criminal records lies in the hands of the judges.
The eligibility for expungement varies widely from state to state. Some states only allow expungement of records that were dismissed before the entry of a plea. Some states also allow for the expungement after an individual has been convicted. But expungement is only permitted for minor convictions such as misdemeanors or minor infractions. Serious felonies are rarely eligible for expungement.
The eligibility criteria for getting criminal records expunged depends on the following factors:
Certain serious felonies cannot be expunged across states in the US. These include:
Expungement procedures vary from state to state and can be complex. Typically, an individual must file a petition for expungement in the same court in which the criminal proceedings took place. The requirements and procedure for filing expungement vary widely from state to state. Some states require an applicant to submit or serve papers to the district attorneys. In other states, the applicant must prepare a legal document known as the order of expungement that the judge signs. Each petition filed only addresses a single case. If a person requires the expungement of multiple cases, they should file a petition for each of the cases. After the filing of the petition, a judge reviews the petitioner’s file and evaluates it to ascertain whether it meets the jurisdiction’s criteria for expungement. In certain situations, a court hearing can be required, after which the judge decides whether or not to grant the expungement. Besides this, individual courts may have exclusive procedural rules regarding expungement cases that the petitioner would have to fulfill.
If the petitioner is granted an expungement, they must provide and distribute copies of the order to all the law enforcement agencies that may have records related to the criminal proceedings. The court clerk where the criminal proceedings were held usually maintains the main file, but records of the proceedings can be in possession of the police department, the sheriff’s department, jail, probation or parole officer, as well as any other agency involved in the community service or other requirements.
Hiring an expungement attorney can benefit you in the following ways:
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