Expungement

Expungement Definition 

Expungement is the process of sealing any arrest or conviction records. Depending on the state, there are ways that individuals are able to expunge arrests or convictions from their records. Each state has its own precise definitions of how expungement can occur, and it is essential to be aware of the state's laws to have realistic expectations of when criminal records will be removed. 

Who Is Eligible for Expungement? 

Expungement is a privilege because it can offer a fresh start for those willing to take advantage of the new opportunity. One of the most important things that an individual who has been convicted can research is their particular jurisdiction's rules on expungement procedures. It is wise to start by speaking with the county criminal court to see precisely what is required. For individuals looking to find out more about expungement, it is wise to ask the following questions: 

  • Does the offense they committed qualify for expungement in their state? 
  • If so, when is a person eligible for an expungement? 
  • What does the expungement process involve? 
  • Are there any consequences of expungement? 

What Is a Certificate of Actual Innocence? 

A Certificate of Actual Innocence is one of the most powerful forms of expungement. This certificate achieves more than merely sealing a prior record. The Certificate of Actual Innocence also proves that a record should never have existed in the first place. An example would be if an individual was arrested for vandalism, and then the charges were later dropped. By obtaining a Certificate of Actual Innocence, an individual has proof that their arrest was made in error. 

What About Drug Offenses? 

For individuals who were arrested for drug-related offenses, it is possible to be eligible for diversion programs. Diversion programs enable an individual's record to be expunged so long as they satisfactorily complete the program. Diversion programs are not always available as an option, particularly to individuals with many drug offenses. If a diversion program is an option, individuals should absolutely take advantage of the program and then have their record expunged for fewer legal issues in the future. 

Are There Special Rules for Juveniles? 

Juvenile offenders are in a unique legal position if they commit a crime before turning eighteen years old. Once the juvenile offender turns eighteen, they have the option to seal their criminal records if they have stayed out of additional legal trouble. 

What Is the Legal Effect of an Expungement? 

For most purposes, an expungement means that an individual that was arrested or convicted does not need to disclose their arrest or conviction to an employer or potential landlord. Usually, a record that has been expunged will not appear for educational institutions, employers, or a background check. 

Are Expunged Records Actually Gone? 

An arrest or conviction that has been expunged is not completely erased. An expungement will typically be an accessible part of a person's criminal record that is viewable by certain criminal courts, government agencies, or law enforcement officers. Expunged records remain "under seal," which means that they are protected from exposure but still accessible in certain circumstances. For example, if an individual is in deportation proceedings, a sealed record that has been expunged can still be used as proof of conviction. Individuals who have expunged records have to understand that they are never entirely erased, and it is best to avoid engaging in illegal activities to avoid worrying about expungement. 

Should I Work with an Attorney to Have My Criminal Convictions or Arrest Records Expunged? 

Working with an attorney is a wise decision because the laws surrounding expungement are delicate and specific to each state. Many individuals, if they are eligible, will benefit from expungement. Hiring an attorney will help individuals to have clearly outlined steps to expunge records successfully. Attorneys will also be able to assess which state regulations will be beneficial to the individual's case. 

Expungement Glossary Definition

Expungement is a court-related process where the legal record of an arrest is sealed or erased in the official eyes of the law. Expungement is not possible for every offense, and some states such as New York do not allow criminal convictions to be expunged. For individuals attempting to have their arrest or conviction records expunged, it is important to accurately research the specific requirements in their particular jurisdictions to be sure they are eligible to have their records expunged.