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Learn about expungement of records, also known as expunction, in our complete guide to records removal.
Criminal records can affect a person’s life in different ways. This reality is true regardless of whether such records pertain to an arrest or prior conviction.
For one, most landlords and employers tend to have formal or informal background checks and ask applicants if they have any criminal offenses, convictions, or criminal history. Employers and landlords might reject the application if these applicants respond by saying “yes” to such questions.
That being said, a person’s criminal record affects opportunities and other decisions.
This situation could paralyze those who want to start afresh and look for good opportunities. The good news, however, is that expungement is allowed in some cases. This possibility means that one can have a criminal record expunged or sealed.
Find out what expungement of records is, who is eligible for expungement, and how to process expungement in our guide below.
Expungement, or expunction, is defined as the legal process that a person convicted or arrested must go through for legal agencies to seal records. Simply stated, the expungement process involves sealing a conviction, arrest, or related criminal record and making them unavailable to the general public.
There may be different state laws and regulations about expungement, but in most cases, the state’s laws provide that an expunged record does not have to be disclosed. Even landlords and employers do not have to know about this.
Criminal cases, including juvenile records, get sealed off in this process. It means that a criminal conviction or arrest can be removed as if no offense occurred in the first place. Even a prosecutor’s office or court cannot access expunged records. However, authorized individuals can access sealed records if a court order gets issued.
A criminal justice agency is in charge of keeping and maintaining criminal records. When expungement is passed and processed, the criminal justice agency must adhere to letting the criminal record stay sealed.
Considering how a previous criminal offense or conviction could affect one’s opportunities, expungement of records can be helpful. Now, the question is: are all persons with criminal records eligible for expungement?
It is the state courts and law that determine whether a person is eligible to have their record expunged or not.
Several states have conditions for which criminal charges can be expunged. For one, a state jurisdiction may allow expungement when a certain arrest or misconduct conviction occurred, but they might not allow those with felony convictions to have their records expunged.
Some states list offenses that are ineligible for expungement. Most offenses that cannot be expunged include grave crimes, such as the following.
Even if states tend to vary regarding which offenses can be expunged or not, they mostly agree that a serious criminal conviction should not be expunged.
When it comes to when expungement is allowed, different states have certain conditions. Some laws require the person to wait for a certain period before requesting expungement. This period could be a year, five years, or even ten.
Other than that, this period should start when the sentence is completed. The charged person must also stay crime-free during this period.
Considering these conditions, many courts across various states do not approve every expungement order. A court hearing will determine eligibility, and no expungement proceedings would likely occur if some conditions are not met.
It bears repeating: the court does not approve every single expungement order. Contact your local county clerk’s office for details on scheduling an expungement of records hearing and what records you will need to process your request.
If you meet the conditions for expungement and have your record expunged altogether, this can largely improve your online reputation. Having the court process your expunged arrest could help you get started and access different opportunities, like a new job or being accepted into the school of your choice.
This reality is especially true because a criminal record is considered a public record. In other words, public officials and the public as a whole can access this information. It is no secret.
Anyone can see a person’s record of convictions, arrests, mugshots, and criminal offenses. Because of this, it could be hard for a convicted person to start from a clean slate.
The expungement process starts with simple filing. The person with previous charges can file a request or petition alone or ask an attorney to help with the expungement journey. This petition is usually addressed to the criminal court.
Below is the process that you must take to expunge your record.
Before you request the court to expunge your record, there are a few things that you need to check first.
Once you have this information and requirements in check, you can proceed with filing the petition.
The filing process typically requires some forms that you need to fill up.
Where to get these forms may vary from state to state. In Maryland, for one, the website for their government agencies has the Petition for Expungement of Records form and the General Waiver and Release form easily downloadable. Filers can use the first form for expunction of dismissal, acquittal, nolle pros, probation before judgment, and some dispositions that are not criminally responsible.
When filling up the form, make sure that your criminal record is there for you to get the information correct.
It would be best to use broad contexts when you file for expungement. You can mention that you desire to have all court records, police records, and other records that the state maintains that are related to your conviction or charge.
Using broad language is helpful to make sure that various records about your conviction or arrest get expunged. If you do not use broad and inclusive terms, the court may only process the specific records you mentioned and leave out other records.
Once you finish requesting the expungement of your court records and other similar records, the judge will review the petition or request and see if the expungement order should be passed.
As mentioned earlier, not every kind of crime can get expunged. Certain offenses are ineligible for expungement. Besides that, depending on the state, one cannot request expungement within certain periods.
That being said, not everyone with any crime, arrest, or
When a record is expunged, the public will not be able to access it because such a record will be sealed. Even public officials may not easily get their hands on it. However, if the court issues an order to access an expunged record, this record can be accessed.
The expungement process duration may vary from state to state. However, in general, some factors affect the success and the duration of processing.
While these strong factors affect speed and success, other factors are still to be considered.
That being said, expungement processing varies from case to case. It can take a few weeks or maybe a few months.
Whether a fee will be paid or not depends on the nature of the case. Payment is not required if the claim involves dismissal, acquittal, stet, nolle prosequi, PBJ, or other dispositions that are not criminally responsible.
However, if the expungement is filed for a guilty case, there could be a charge for each case. In Maryland, specifically, they require $30 for one case. This condition may vary, however, from state to state.
When processing the expungement of records, you are not legally required to have an attorney. However, consulting an attorney can help deal with your situation. The attorney can help guide you through the process and instruct you on what you should or shouldn’t do.
Having your name and information appear in public arrest records can be more than embarrassing; it can also ruin your digital reputation. Need help with getting your personal info off the web? Contact us now! Learn more about mugshot removal and negative content suppression by calling 866-601-6803