Expunging And Sealing Your Record

Having a criminal record can make things difficult. It may make it hard for you to find employment or housing, as these places often times require that you disclose whether or not you have a record. However, after a certain amount of time you may be able to get your record expunged. This can help make things a bit easier. You might be wondering what having your record expunged is and if you are eligible for expungement.

What Is Expungement?

Expungement is the process of sealing your criminal records; almost every state has provisions for sealing your criminal records, although this process itself varies from state to state. However, the results do not vary from state to state. Once a conviction has been expunged, it cannot be revealed to the public at large or any other institutions.

This means that potential lawyers or landlords cannot have access to your records. For example, if you were convicted of petty theft and eventually came to have this conviction expunged, on a job application, if you were asked if you had any crimes listed on your criminal record, you can mark "no" on the application and this would be considered truthful.

Eligibility of Expungement

If you have been convicted of a crime, you should look at your state laws to see if you are eligible for expungement. Many individuals are, in fact, eligible for expungement. Ask questions at your county court office or at the law enforcement agency at which you were arrested for the crime for which you were convicted. There are a few things you should make it a point to discover.

For instance, check to see if expungements exist only for misdemeanor crimes in your court, district or state, or if you can be expunged for felonies. Find out when you are eligible for expungement. For example, for some crimes, expungement might be an immediate option, while in other cases, you must wait until you have either served time or your probationary period has ended.

Find out if it is necessary to hire an attorney. In many cases, it is not. You will simply have to fill out a form at your local municipal court that is a motion for expungement. Finally, find out if your record will be expunged in total. There are some cases where a law enforcement agency or a court can pull up a record regardless of whether or not it has been expunged.

Certificates Of Actual Innocence

A certificate of actual innocence is something that is far more powerful than an expungement itself. While an expungement simply seals your record from various individuals being able to access it, a certificate of actual innocence is a certificate stating that you should have never been convicted of the crime to begin with. In some cases, you do not even have to be convicted to receive a certificate of actual innocence.

To use the example of being charged with petty theft again, you may be charged with such a crime, but not convicted. After you go to court and your innocence has been established, you may request that the court issue a certificate of actual innocence to prove that you were factually innocent of the crime of which you were accused. A certificate of actual innocence is not necessarily available in all states or municipalities, but is available in some states like Florida and Illinois. You should ask your local court office if such a document is something that you will be able to use to your advantage, or even use at all.

If you have a criminal record and it's causing you problems, talk with a criminal defense attorney about getting your record expunged. He will have the knowledge you need to determine if it's a possibility for your specific circumstance.