Being convicted of a crime means that the conviction will have consequences on your life for years to come, even beyond the criminal penalties given by court. Having a criminal conviction on your record can affect what kind of jobs you can get, where you can live and which educational institutions you can attend among many other things. However, if your crime wasn’t too serious and you take the right steps, you can get arrests and convictions expunged.
What is Expungement?
Expungement is the process of sealing any arrest and conviction records. There are laws in most states that allow people to expunge arrests and convictions from their records. There is some variation in state laws but most state laws allow that once an arrest or conviction has been expunged, it doesn’t need to be disclosed, including to potential employers and landlords.
Qualifying for Expungement
If you have any prior felony convictions, then chances of getting expungement would be better if it was for a lower level offense like theft or possession of a controlled substance. If the prior felony conviction is for a higher level offense, such as aggravated assault or sexual assault, then expungement will most likely not be an option for you.
Your qualification for expungement will also depend on the type of sentence that you received. Many states do not allow expungement for individuals sentenced to prison. However, individuals who receive probated or deferred sentences have a better chance of expunging their criminal conviction. There are some states which would still let you expunge a felony offense where you served prison time. However, this depends on certain conditions, such as if you can prove that a lengthy amount of time has passed since the prison sentence and you have kept your criminal record clean since then and that you are a decent, law abiding member of society. If you have done prison time, then your best option is to contact a criminal lawyer who specializes in handling expungements to find out if it is an option for you in your state.
The Expungement Procedure
Once you qualify, expungement is often a straightforward process. Expungement of a felony record requires that a petition be filed with court. It is better to make the petition after knowing you qualify, otherwise you are simply wasting the petition fee. Many states also require that you wait until the statute of limitations has run on your sentence or a certain number of years have passed after your discharge from probation.
After you have met the timing requirements, most states will require that you send a notice of your request to the original law enforcement agency, the district attorney’s office that handled your case and the state agency that manages the criminal records in your state. If you need to attach any documents to your petition, find out what they are, and make sure to attach them. Once all the relevant parties are informed of your request, you can request a hearing in court. If you don’t request a hearing, your case will most likely not be heard. Once you are at the hearing, the burden of proving that you have kept your criminal record clean for the required time is on you. The procedure involved in expunging a felony can take two to four months and in some cases, up to a year. The time it takes depends largely on the court and the severity of your case.
A criminal attorney in your area will be able to give you the exact figures it will take in terms of monetary cost to expunge a conviction. These will be specific to your state and jurisdiction. Attorney fees to expunge a felony can fall anywhere between $1000 and $2500. This fee is inclusive of all costs associated with your case, including court appearances.
A criminal attorney will also be able to advise you on alternatives to expungement if you are not eligible for it. For example, if you can’t get your record expunged, filing a petition for non-disclosure may still be a viable option for you. This type of petition can also prevent potential employers from being aware of your felony conviction. The procedure of filing these kinds of petitions is similar to filing a petition for expungement.