Having a criminal record can work against you in a number of ways. Aside from the stigma that comes with a conviction and prison sentence, you will have problems finding work and housing. Fortunately, the system is set up to give you a reprieve of sorts through the process of record sealing. You can file to have your record sealed so that it will be as if you never went to prison. If you want to move forward without your record constantly becoming an issue, it is wise to familiarize yourself with this process.
Although you can say that you do not have a criminal conviction, this does not mean that the records will be destroyed. According to the Cleveland legal aid website (http://lasclev.org/can-i-get-my-criminal-record-sealed/) “… the criminal record is hidden from the public and most employers. Some employers, such as those that hire nurses, nursing assistants, or child care providers, will still be able to see the record after it is sealed. It will always be available to judges and police officers.” This means that if you are charged for another crime, your past convictions could come back to haunt you.
Which Records Can be Sealed?
Some charges are considered too serious to be removed from a person’s record. However, the process of sealing covers a variety of crimes. In some states if you were convicted of a misdemeanor, you can file to have our records sealed five years after that date, while in other states you file to seal your records five to seven years after serving your sentence. Felony records will take a longer time to seal. Some sex offenders are also able to have their records sealed, but this depends on the actual charge. Level three offenders are usually not allowed to have sealed records. It usually takes a long time before low level sex offenders can file to have their records sealed.
In some states, if your case did not result in a conviction, you can file to seal the record after the case is completed. You might be able to download the form and file it with your local district court after filling it out. The following factors can improve your chances to have your record sealed, even if you were found not guilty. Providing evidence that having a record will create obstacles preventing you from moving on with your life. You should also give details that are pertinent to your particular case which can demonstrate that it is unlikely that you will be charged again. You should also give all the information that will show why the case did not proceed. The longer the time between the conviction and your request to have your records sealed the better for you.
What is the Process for Criminal Record Sealing
The process to have your criminal or arrest record sealed can be a lengthy one. First, you must fill out the application form properperly, and ensure that it is accompanied by the relevant supporting documents. Initially it will be reviewed by a judge in your district. The judge has the power to deny the petition, even if you have met all the legal requirements for filing. Petitioners are notified on the decision, and if it is successful, they will be given a hearing date.
All relevant parties will be notified of the hearing date, and you should prepare by getting all of your documents together beforehand. The important thing to know is that the purpose of this hearing is to weigh your desire to seal your records against the public’s right to know. In some cases, the petitioner will be given the decision immediately. Generally, the judge will take the time to review the case before making a decision.
If you are on probation, your probation officer will also be notified if the judge grants your petition to have your record sealed. Unsuccessful petitions can usually be appealed. The website for your district court should have information on filing an appeal.
Aside from misdemeanor convictions, there are some case results which will make it easier to have court records sealed. The judge will look favorably on your request if your case was dismissed and there was no ruling for probation. If the court finds that there was no probable cause for you to be charged, this will also work in your favor. If your case resulted in a not guilty verdict, you will most likely want to have the record of your arrest sealed even though there was no conviction.
One of the best things you can do is to talk to the lawyer who handled your case so that you can find out how to go about sealing your record. Since the eligibility requirements and the application process vary in different states, find out as much as you can before you attempt to file. While legal representation can help to make the process quicker, this is not mandatory. You can also approach legal aid organizations in your area for help.