Getting a felony record expunged is not usually challenging, but the steps vary depending on your state. What applies in one area will not apply in another, so you have to take some time to understand the process. It is worth the effort as it will show that you have been rehabilitated and it will make it easier for you to get a fresh start in life. Expunging your criminal record will keep potential employers from obtaining these facts about your past. It can also positively affect other areas of your life such as your ability to find suitable housing. Learning all you can about expungment by visiting certain site such as NOLO.com (http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/expungement-of-criminal-records-basics-32641.html) for information is important.
What Does Expungement Mean?
When a criminal record is expunged (http://criminal.findlaw.com/expungement/expungement-basics.html), it is sealed, which means that as far as your life is concerned, it no longer exists. This covers both the arrest and the conviction. Simply put, it will be as if you had never been arrested and convicted in the first place. If you are looking for a job or a place to live, a background check would not turn up this part of your past. You could truthfully state on an application that you have never been charged with a crime.
What You Need to Know
If you want a clean record, you should familiarize yourself with the expungement process in your state (http://criminal-law.freeadvice.com/criminal-law/criminal-law/felony_convictions.htm). Another important detail is which offenses are appropriate for this type of filing. Generally, an expungement is only possible in misdemeanor cases. It is unlikely that you will be able to get one for a federal conviction. The best thing to do is talk to officials in your area to learn whether your conviction will allow you to make this request.
With any legal process, an attorney will help you to get a better grasp of the situation. Hiring one can help you to get it done quicker in some cases, but this step is usually not necessary. You can choose to handle the entire process on your own by getting the appropriate forms, which are generally easy to fill out on your own.
Filing for an Expungement
If you were charged as a juvenile, you have a better chance of getting your record expunged. This is usually dependent on having no subsequent brushes with the law. In most cases, the person requesting the expungement has to be at least 18 years old.
Drug offenses are generally eligible for this type of filing as well. You can talk to your lawyer about programs that can be part of your sentence. Diversion programs are run by agencies such as the court, district attorney’s office or even the police station. Taking part in a program can be a part of your sentence, and after its completion, then your record will be clean. Many people who are charged with drug offenses opt for diversion programs upon the advice of their lawyers as a way to keep their records clean.
Alternatives to Record Expungement
What pertains in some states with regards to records expungement might not apply in yours. One example is California, where a person’s criminal record can still be accessed by members of the public. Also, some offences, such as violent crimes or sex offences will remain on your record. If you want a clean record, there are alternatives you can consider. Some of these are discussed below.
Requesting a Pardon
Unlike an expungement, a pardon will not necessarily remove your criminal record. However, it can restore rights that are not available to the average felon, such as the right to own a gun. This step usually requires the serving of a period of probation after serving time in prison or facing some other type of punishment. While your record will remain, you will be forgiven for the crime.
Sealing Your Record
This prevents others from learning about your arrest and conviction even if they search for this information. When a criminal record is expunged, in many states it no longer exists, but when it is sealed it will still exist, but it will not be accessible. In certain legal proceedings, officials can file a motion to have your records unsealed. However, no member of the public will be able to make this request, so you will be able to say that you do not have a criminal record.
While the eligibility requirements vary depending on the state you live in, the result is always the same. As a first time offender, you stand a good chance of getting your record expunged. Individuals who have served their entire sentence are also eligible to file. It is imperative that anyone who wants to start over not be charged with another offence after the first conviction. You normally need to wait between five to seven years after the end of your sentence to file.
If you find yourself facing criminal charges, talk to your lawyer about the possibility of negotiating an expungement as part of a plea deal. It is a good idea for anyone who is being charged with a crime to start thinking about how they will move forward after they have served the sentence.