How to Check if You Are Eligible for Expungement

Often, having a criminal record can cause difficulty in obtaining employment, housing, or certain types of licenses. The good news is that you could be eligible for what’s known as criminal record expungement. It’s not for everyone, but if you’re eligible, you could start fresh with a clean slate. Read on for more information about expungement, including how to check if you qualify, and what the process is for filing for an expungement.

What is Criminal Record Expungement?

To understand Criminal Record Expungement, we must first understand what a criminal record is. A criminal record is a list of a person’s arrests and convictions that is maintained by the criminal justice system. 

Criminal record expungement is a process that results in your criminal record being destroyed as if it never happened. An expungement reopens your criminal case, dismisses and sets aside the conviction, and re-closes the case without a conviction. In consequence, you are no longer a convicted person. However, the case record itself will still exist, and the expungement will appear on your record. 

Across the country, many states in recent years have expanded eligibility for expungement, as the number of people affected by criminal records has also grown. While a criminal record typically never completely disappears, especially in the Internet, expungement can provide some relief.


Why Would You Want an Expungement?

Expungement laws are a sort of second chance or new life that allows people to remove that taboo on their heads by sealing or erasing certain criminal records. States have enacted expungement laws to help limit the reach and effect of a criminal record so that after a certain amount of time has passed, people can move on with their lives and become productive citizens.

Since with each passing year the number of people affected by criminal records is growing, many states across the country have expanded eligibility for expungement. The time could not be more fitting to look into record expunging today!


What Barriers Are Posed by Having a Criminal Record?

Having a criminal record can severely limit one’s access to employment, education, any public assistance, housing, civic engagement, etc. due to the use of background checks, which would uncover criminal records. 

Even if there isn’t a conviction, an arrest record is enough to decrease a person’s chances of employment. Moreover, the collateral damage of having a criminal record reaches across generations, as the socioeconomic barriers associated with a parent’s criminal record can harm a child’s long-term well-being and outcomes.


Are You Eligible for an Expungement?

You are eligible for expungement, and the court will dismiss your conviction if  you received probation for that conviction and you do the following:

  1. You completed probation or obtained early release,
  2. You also have paid all the fines, restitution, and reimbursements ordered by the court as part of your sentence,
  3. You are not currently serving another sentence or on probation for another offense, and
  4. You are not currently charged with another offense.

You are also eligible for expungement if you never received probation and the following applies:

  1. Your conviction was a misdemeanor,
  2. It has been at least one year since the date you were convicted,
  3. You have complied fully with the sentence of the court,
  4. You are not currently serving another sentence,
  5. You are not currently charged with another offense, and
  6. You have obeyed the law and lived an honest and upright life since the time of your conviction. 

It is to be noted that an expungement does not:

  1. Remove the conviction from your criminal history.
  2. Reinstate your right to possess firearms.
  3. Allow you to omit the conviction from applications for government-issued licenses. 
  4. Seal the court case file from public inspection. The court file remains a public record.
  5. Prevent the conviction from being used as a “prior” for sentencing enhancements in subsequent convictions.
  6. Prevent the conviction from being used to impeach your testimony if you are called as a witness in court.
  7. Prevent the conviction from being used to refuse or revoke a government license or permit, such as a real estate license, teaching credential, security guard certificate, etc.
  8. Prevent the conviction from being used by US Citizenship and Naturalization Services for removal or exclusion purposes.

What Is the Process for Filing for an Expungement?

Many states require a person to file a petition with the court of conviction to get an expungement. Each state has a different list of crimes that can be expunged, and the process and steps required differ by state. In most states, a person must file a form (often called a petition) with the court asking for expungement—some states use simple, straightforward forms. Still, others have complicated petitions that might require the assistance of an attorney. 

A few states have an automatic process that requires no action on the part of the individual to expunge certain types of criminal records. In some states, only misdemeanors are eligible for expungement, while in others, felonies can also be expunged except for very serious or violent crimes. You must usually wait a period after the sentence's completion and remain crime-free (no new arrests or convictions) during the waiting period, in such cases, to be eligible.

The cost of filing an expungement petition in court varies from state to state and sometimes from county to county. The filing fee can be expensive, costing several hundred dollars. Some states allow the court to waive or reduce the fee if the petitioner can demonstrate financial hardship. It is important to remember that these costs exist and to save up for them during the period between being convicted and expunging to make the expungement easier for you to achieve.

If you or someone you know need an expungement or want to know if their eligible contact the experienced attorneys at Washington Record Expungement. Our experienced team of legal representatives can destroy, seal, vacate, and remove prior criminal or arrest records standing in the way of job opportunities, government programs, and gun rights. Contact us today for more information regarding the expungement process!