A criminal conviction can haunt you for much longer than your actual sentence. Even if you only received probation and never spent a day in jail, a felony conviction can affect your ability to get a job or rent an apartment or a house. You'll find that even though you've served your time or completed your probation requirements, many people are unwilling to give second chances to a convicted felon. However, there is something that you can do to help yourself. In some cases, it's possible to have your criminal record expunged or sealed. Having your criminal record cleaned up can help you move on with your life by giving you a clean slate. If you have a criminal conviction that's affecting your life negatively, here are some tips for clearing your criminal record.
Expunged or Sealed?
Usually, criminal records are either expunged or sealed. Depending on the state that you live in, you may have to make a choice between expunction or sealing, or only one of these options may be available to you.
Both options are preferable to leaving your criminal record exposed; however, they are not equal to each other. An expunged record leaves you with a true clean slate. While it may be possible for someone (like law enforcement) to see that there is an expunged record in your history, that record can't be reopened or held against you. A sealed record, on the other hand, is not as well hidden. Potential employers and landlords may still be able to see a sealed record, depending on the state you're in, and if you get into any further legal trouble later, a sealed record may be legally unsealed. If you have a choice, you should opt for an expunction; however, a sealed record is better than nothing.
Are You Eligible?
Not everyone with a criminal record is eligible to have their record sealed or expunged. Eligibility varies from state to state, but typically, first-time offenders and juvenile offenders are the people most likely to be eligible for expunction or record sealing. The type of offense may also be considered – a drug offense is more likely to be eligible for expunction or sealing than a violent offense.
In most cases, you'll be required to fill out a form and pay a fee. Your state may also have other requirements that need to be followed in order to qualify for an expunction. In Florida, for example, you'll need to be fingerprinted and submit the fingerprints with your petition. In Utah, you'll need to wait a certain amount of time from the date that your incarceration, probation, or parole ended – for example, for a felony conviction, you can't apply for an expunction until seven years have passed from the end of your sentence. You may also have to attend a hearing before the record sealing or expunction is complete.
Do You Need an Attorney?
An attorney who is well-versed in criminal law in the area that you're located in is always helpful when you're dealing with the criminal justice system, and that includes when you're petitioning the court for an expunction. You're not required to hire an attorney if you don't want to, and you may not need one if your case is very simple and straightforward. However, it certainly doesn't hurt to at least consult with a lawyer before beginning the application process.
If your case has any complicating factors, then you will definitely want an attorney by your side to help you navigate through the expunction process. The attorney that defended you in your criminal case may be a good choice, since he or she will already be familiar with the details of your conviction and sentencing.
Don't let a one-time mistake negatively affect your life forever. Take a look into the process for expunging or sealing criminal records in your state, and give yourself the chance to start over with a clean slate.
Click here for more information, or contact a criminal lawyer.Share
3 February 2015
My name is Noni. When I was in college, I was hit by a car while crossing the street. My life was never in danger, but I did break a few bones and had a lot of huge medical bills. I was hoping I wouldn't have to get involved with an attorney, but unfortunately, it came down to that. I used a family friend who is an accident attorney to get some compensation. A few years later, I was hit while riding my bike and had to go through the same process. I suppose I'm lucky to be alive. And it's thanks to accident attorneys that I have been able to put my life back together. I started this blog as a way to let others know just how much lawyers can help you in certain situations.