Expungement Lawyer

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.

What Is Expungement?

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.

Expungement vs. Record Sealing

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.

Expungement vs Pardon

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.

Eligibility Criteria for Expungement

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:

  •  Jurisdiction in which the criminal proceedings took place: The nature of crime and proceedings eligible for expungement varies from state to state.
  • Time between filing for expungement and criminal proceedings: Most cases only allow individuals to file for expungement if there has been sufficient time between the conclusion of the proceedings and the filing of the expungement application
  • No Criminal history: Most states consider the criminal history of the individual filing for expungement. No additional criminal history post the end of the criminal proceedings requested to be expunged is the ideal scenario that helps an individual in their expungement process.
  • No convictions: Criminal convictions for serious felonies cannot be expunged in most states. No convictions for these felonies, however, can be expunged.
  • No or minimal criminal history: No or minimal criminal history before the records requested to be expunged can be a criterion for eligibility in certain states.
  • Completion of the required processes: Some states make it compulsory for an individual to complete all terms of the proceedings. Under such circumstances, an individual is required to complete all the terms of deferred disposition, parole, probation, or sentence.
  • Meeting legal obligations and paying all legal fees: Clearing all the legal and restitution dues is mandatory for filing for expungement in some states. On the other hand, an individual is required to complete filing the expungement application in all states.

What Felonies Cannot Be Expunged?

Certain serious felonies cannot be expunged across states in the US. These include:

  • Murder
  • Rape
  • Violent assault with a deadly weapon that causes a severe injury
  • Arson
  • Terrorism
  • Capital offenses
  • Crimes that can lead to life in prison

Expungement Process

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.

Why Hire an Expungement Attorney?

Hiring an expungement attorney can benefit you in the following ways:

  • Obtaining documents for filing with the expungement petition can be difficult. You may be required to visit the prosecutor’s office multiple times and put immense effort into obtaining the records. A specialist expungement attorney can help you obtain the records with minimum effort and in less time
  • The process of getting your criminal records expunged can be complicated and time-consuming. An expungement attorney could help speed up the process for you and guide you at each step. With an expungement attorney by your side, you can ensure that the expungement order reaches all the concerned authorities.
  • The expungement process requires the applicant to file tons of paperwork. This paperwork is then reviewed by the judge and forms the basis of their judgment. With an expungement attorney, you can ensure you file all the required paperwork and boost your chances of expunging your records.
  • Expungement processes may require court hearings. In such cases, having an expungement attorney can ensure you are represented properly in the court.

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