What Does it Mean to Have Your Criminal Record Expunged?

Posted on the February 19th, 2013 under Legal Guides by admin

First time offenders often have the opportunity to have their criminal records expunged. This is a legal process that means that the record will be sealed by the court which makes it completely non-viewable to police departments and federal databases. When a record is sealed, it is considered to be expunged. This essentially makes it seem as if the offense never happened and the criminal record never existed. There is a major difference between an expungement and a pardon. A pardon is when someone with a criminal record is completely forgiven of the crimes of which they are accused. An expungement however, means that the person never had a criminal record at all.

There are many instances in which someone may seek to have their record expunged. Each jurisdiction sets its own rules and regulations for how an expungement is carried out and whether or not a specific record can be expunged. Generally, an expunged record will not be viewable by anyone. In some states however, there are provisions that state that an expunged record is not wiped completely clean from certain databases that judges and police departments use on the chance that these records may be needed in the future for sentencing if the conditions of the expungement are not met or if the person is convicted of another crime.

Note that not every crime is eligible for expungement even for first time offenders. Requirements or conditions are almost always a part of the process and if these conditions are not met then the expungement may not be granted. Conditions typically include wait times between when the crime was committed and when the expungement is requested as well as staying out of trouble for a specified period of time.

Crimes that typically cannot be expunged include any violent crimes against minors such as sexual assault or rape. Crimes involving the corruption of a minor, pornography of a minor and obscene gestures aimed at a minor are often not granted expungement. Again, different states have different regulations regarding this legal process and each state will determine what criminal acts are eligible for expungement. If a record is granted expungement, it can take up to six months before the record will be sealed.

Those seeking expungement will need a criminal attorney to begin the process. An attorney who is well-versed in this process can help to determine if the crime meets the requirements for expungement and will know where and what papers must be filed in order to get the process started. First time offenders who are not considered violent in nature and who simply made a bad judgment often do get granted a complete clearing of their records and upon meeting the conditions, are never considered to have been in trouble with the legal system at all. Those who feel that the crimes they have been convicted of meet the requirements and who want to seek an expungement should contact an experienced criminal attorney who has represented clients in this area in the past.

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