A criminal record can still cause difficulties in your life long after doing the time or completing any other sentences associated with the conviction. Finding a job could prove difficult, as most employers do a background check to before hiring you, while landlords may refuse to rent or schools refuse to enroll you as long as you have been convicted of a crime or arrested in the past.
Luckily, you may be able to put a past crime behind you forever and be able to legally claim that you were never charged or convicted. This is possible through a process called expungement.
What is expungement?
This refers to the legal process of sealing or destroying any arrest or conviction records. Depending on which state you are in, you may be eligible for expungement for certain crimes, especially drug crimes, juvenile convictions, non-violent felonies or first-time misdemeanors. You may also to have criminal record sealed if the conviction is later proved to have been unconstitutional.
Violent felonies, federal crimes and repeat-offences can usually not be expunged, so you may have to consult a criminal defense attorney to advice you on eligibility for expungement in your state. When a criminal record is expunged, it is hidden from public view, meaning that you can claim to never have been arrested or convicted if asked by potential employers or other parties.
Once a request for expungement is allowed by the courts, any records in the court system including DNA samples, photos or fingerprints will be permanently sealed or removed from court files and law enforcement databases.
How to file for an expungement request
Before your criminal record can be sealed, it must be eligible for expungement in your state. You must also have completed any sentence - including probation - handed down by the courts and not have committed any additional crimes. Since the process of obtaining expungement for previous crimes can be complex, it helps to hire a lawyer familiar with such cases.
Your attorney from a firm like The Law Office of Michael R. Hanson will counsel you on whether you are eligible for expungement and help you file a written request with the courts. The lawyer can also advise you on other requirements for expungement, such as a signature from the original district attorney who prosecuted you, and guide you through your state's expungement procedures.
You can also seek a certificate of actual innocence that expunges any crimes that you were wrongly arrested for or for charges that were later dropped.
Expungement can give you a fresh start of sorts and help you move on with your life without having to suffer the consequences of past arrests or convictions.