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Here in the United States, unfortunately, we have developed an attitude that once a person is a criminal they are always a criminal. It used to be that once a person had completed the sentence for a crime, served jail time, paid restitution, and so on that he or she has paid their debt to society.
Today, that sentiment has eroded, and while we cannot change the culture, we can help you to get your life back on track. Whether you were rightfully or wrongfully convicted, and sometimes if you were not convicted at all, a mugshot and an arrest record can be enough to keep you from getting a job, renting a house or apartment, and it can even harm personal relationships.
The good news is that there are circumstances in which most people can expunge their records. It’s not always easy. And, you can often expect people in public offices to drag their feet on such requests. But it can be done.
Our team of privacy and reputation experts here at EraseMugshots got together to create this simplified guide to getting arrest records and criminal records expunged from your record if, and when, you are eligible to do so.
But before we answer “how do I get something expunged off my record?,” we should define our terms and explain some of the complications involved.
Expungement is a legal term that refers to the sealing of records and/or the restoration of rights. Whether it’s an arrest or a conviction, you can usually expunge or seal that record to protect your reputation. Understand, when we say “sealed,” it does not mean removed or deleted. It means most people and organizations can no longer see what is inside those records.
In some cases, certain types of employers, government agencies, and other authorized entities and personnel will be able to see that a record exists and access that record to see what it contains. This is by far the exception. This will most often be the case when the person with an expunged record is applying for a job working with minors or with vulnerable people such as the infirm or the elderly.
Another thing that expungement does not protect against is the changing of laws. For example, suppose a teenager is involved in drugs or crime, is arrested, and serves his time. He goes to jail and completes the sentence while still a legal minor. When he turns 18, his record is sealed and expunged.
At the age of 21, he takes a job working with at-risk teens like himself as a line counselor. However, a new governor in his state takes office and changes the law so that people with juvenile records working with teens can no longer have their records sealed. Depending on the wording of the law, the employer may be notified, government agents may attempt to meet with the young man to discuss his record, and so on. He may end up losing his job and starting his career all over at square one.
All of these details will vary depending on the state you live in and the current government’s policies. But in the broad majority of cases, expungement is available for most types of convictions and arrest records. In some cases, a person may need to move to a state where the laws are different enough to be able to find employment if the state of expungement laws is not suitable where he or she lives. Still, cases like these are the exception and not the norm.
Because expungement is an important way for persons with records to carry on with their lives productively, the first task of someone who wants to have a record sealed is to research the expungement procedures in their jurisdiction. Begin by inquiring with the county criminal court or law enforcement agency that handled the arrest. Prepare to file forms, pay fees, and wait for responses. Ask them the following questions:
Some crimes are not eligible for expungement. Some jurisdictions and states may only expunge misdemeanor convictions. Many will not expunge convictions related to domestic abuse or felony interpersonal crimes.
Certain crimes may only become eligible for expungement after a given amount of time has passed in your jurisdiction.
Persons seeking expungement may or may not need to hire a legal representative. Most courts offer forms with titles like “motion to expunge,” or “motion for expungement.”
As mentioned above, certain types of convictions will still be visible in certain circumstances and certain locations. It depends on the state where the conviction took place. When you apply for a new job, it might be a good idea to search for expungement laws in that field.
We apologize for the long prelude to answering your question, but it’s important to lay the groundwork for an expungement. You should know the process may be complicated, expensive, may take time, and may end up hitting a brick wall. But hopefully, you get the answer to “how do I get something expunged off my record?” you need to be successful.
Know that expungement works differently in different states and different jurisdictions. It may be easier to obtain in one area than it is in another. What one jurisdiction calls expungement, another jurisdiction may call sealing. You can begin the process knowing nothing about how it works in your area, and end up doing a lot more waiting and footwork than you should. So remember, research is important. It can save you time and money.
As mentioned above, the process is different in different locations. Sometimes sealing a record is the same as expunging it. Sometimes you may ask for one when the other better fits your needs and area. Make sure you know which action is which in your location. If you use terminology in a way that differs from the way government employees in your location use it, the process will certainly take much longer than it should.
We hate to belabor the point, but it’s important. You need to understand what sealing and expungement mean in your location and according to the law as it currently stands. Don’t seek one when the other suits your case better.
In some cases, a pardon may restore more rights than the other options. Rights that can be restored by a pardon include the right to serve on a jury and the right to carry a weapon, or bear arms. A pardon does not always seal or expunge a record. But it places a banner on your record that effectively shows your conviction is moot. As you can imagine, there are cases where this will be helpful, and somewhere it will not.
In many cases, a certificate of innocence may be the best possible option. The possessor of a certificate of innocence cannot and does not try to hide their record, but their certificate shows that they are innocent of the crime and did not deserve the conviction. A certificate of rehabilitation is similar legally, but may not be as valuable for practical considerations.
Once you know which option is best for you, your conviction, and the area where you live, you need to find out if you will be permitted to obtain the status you want. If the status you wish to obtain is not open to you, consider one of the other options.
Once you have studied the options, know what you’re eligible for, and what you’re likely to get in your location, it’s time to begin the process. In some states, you may need a certificate of eligibility before you begin the process and file. This sounds like a hassle, but once you have it, it will make things easier.
Some states require you to fill out a petition for dismissal. Be sure to fill out these forms correctly when and where they are needed. You will usually be required to file your petition in the county where you were charged.
Once this is done, you may or may not need to wait for and attend a hearing. Alternatively, the decision may be made without your presence or input. Either way, follow directions, or your petition may be denied, and your fees and time spent will have been for nothing.
Finally, you can see at this point that the entire process is fraught with pitfalls and confusing twists and turns. It may be wise to simply hire an attorney from the start who can handle all the paperwork, red tape, and footwork for you. Many judges and public officials resent those who engage in legal proceedings without a lawyer and may be biased against you for not doing so.
To learn more about obtaining a legal expungement, get in touch with the experts at EraseMugshots.com. Your free analysis is waiting.