Understanding the Expungement Process


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Millions of Americans have a legal record that can keep them from living productive lifestyles long after they have repaid their debt to society. In many cases, theses citizens should be free to pursue their goals and ambitions without being disabled by their past offenses. Expungement is the sealing of a criminal record so it is not publicly available. The process is partly a response to the realization by lawmakers that mistakes are possible, even when writing the laws that were created to serve and protect us. The process of striking out these mistakes is called expungement.

If you have been convicted of a misdemeanor, or a series of misdemeanors or violations stemming from a single incident, you may petition the court in which you were convicted for expungement of the misdemeanor or violation record. Individuals must follow specific procedures to request the court to grant a criminal expungement. In some states, the petition cannot by law, be filed until at least five years after the person has completed his sentence or probation. The court will set a hearing date once the petition is filed. Any person who may have relevant information concerning the case may attend. Additionally, the victim (if there is any) and the county attorney may attend the meeting.

If the petitioner meets specific qualifications, has waited five years since his probation or sentence was completed, and pays a fee to the circuit clerk, the record may be expunged. The court will then state that no record exists for the person regarding this matter. The person whose record is expunged does not have to disclose any information regarding the violation in employment applications - unless the crime committed could have an effect on the job you are seeking (for example if you were convicted of theft and you were applying as a manager at a retail store who counts the money drawers at the end of every shift). Information regarding the violation can also be left off of credit histories, or other applications.

Your state’s county courthouse should provide the forms necessary if the forms we provide are not up to date.

Expungement of your criminal record is the obliteration and striking out of all records on file within any court, law enforcement agency or criminal, and detention or correctional facility. An expungement creates a condition where the act that resulted in a legal record never occurred. So, any information associated with the arrest, and processes leading up to the arrest is destroyed. Generally, it is reserved for non-violent, lower level offenses and for defendants who do not have a prior (or subsequent) criminal record.

However, expungements are not seen as a right by the state, rather, a privilege granted to a petitioner who must file and beg for in a prayer for relief when petitioning the court for cleaning a legal record. If the petitioner is eligible for an expungement most records with few exceptions can be expunged. These records also include all complaints, warrants, arrests, processing records, commitments, fingerprints, photographs, index cards, “rap sheets” and judicial dockets.

Illegal activity in violation of law is categorized many ways: felonies are the most serious, then misdemeanors, disorderly persons, and traffic violations. A record for some felonies such as murder, manslaughter, treason, kidnapping, rape, forcible sodomy, arson, anarchy, perjury and robbery do not allow for expungement in every state. Also, a conviction for child related sex offenses do not qualify for expungement in any state.


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