Worried About Background Checks? Try Expungement

by EmilyKaltman on October 3, 2013

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Expungement is a strange word, but it can be a lifesaver for first-time offenders. Instead of your conviction following you around for the rest of your life on background checks, affecting future job prospects, mortgage applications, apartment rentals, and so on, you can get the charge removed from your record through expungement.

…Come Again?

Expungement is a special type of lawsuit. The person charged with a crime, typically a first-time offender, will seek that his or her criminal records be sealed or destroyed, which makes the records unavailable. It is a way of erasing the charge from history and records as if it never even happened. You can legally deny that you were ever arrested.

Does Expungement Really Get Rid of Everything?

Again, it depends on the jurisdiction that you were convicted. In some places, every records that have been filed with any court, detention or correctional facility, law enforcement agency or criminal justice agency can be sealed. This includes records of your apprehension, arrest, detention, trial, or disposition.

Who Can See My Expunged Conviction?

In some cases, your expunged conviction will still be accessible to certain law enforcement or sentencing judges, but not to the general public. However, if you plan on applying for a position that is in public office or requires a high security clearance, you are obligated to confess to your expunged crime, or risk being denied access from the Department of Justice.

What Types of Crimes Can Be Expunged?/ Am I Eligible?

The law varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, as does the considerations a judge takes before your expungement request will be considered. On the other hand, if your conviction is viewed as minor or as a relatively inferior crime, you can often qualify for expungement. Varying from state to state, you may be required to fulfill the following to be expunged:

  • Wait a specified amount of time after your conviction

  • Not exceed a specified amount of prior incidents (individuals with several prior convictions are not likely to be expunged).

  • Completed your sentence or probation, or paid any fines without incident

  • Be charged with a minor or inferior crime (If you were convicted of a crime such as rape, sexual battery, a felony or first degree misdemeanor in which the victim was a minor, or any federal crime, you can kiss chances of expungement goodbye. Also, immigrants cannot have their crimes expunged.)

  • Any other requirements within your jurisdiction

Do I need an Attorney?

You are not required to have an attorney to pursue expungement, but they can be helpful in guiding you through the process. In some states like Texas, Florida, or California, expungement laws can be incredibly complex, too.

I’m a minor. What About My Record?

Lucky for you, many states allow, or even automatically require, expungement of juvenile records when kids reach a certain age (usually 17 or 18). These laws are to allow kids have a fresh start when they become an adult and protect them from the negative effects of their criminal record follow them around for the rest of their life.

Emily Kaltman writes for Carroll Troberman Criminal Defense, a law firm in Austin, Texas. She enjoys writing about law and having a clean criminal record.

Emily Kaltman writes for Carroll Troberman Criminal Defense, a law firm in Austin, Texas. She enjoys writing about law and having a clean criminal record.

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