Learn How to Remove Charges from Your Criminal Record
Many people who have served time within the US penal system have a difficult time adjusting to civilian life after their release. While this in part is due to social reasons, many ex-cons do not know of the option to remove charges from one’s criminal record, in fact, some ex-cons think that clinics that offer this service are a scam.
There are many reasons why you would want to have a criminal offense expunged from your record, whether you are trying to find a new job, or rent a new apartment, having a criminal charge on your record can be detrimental and even be a cause of not gaining employment. Landlords, employers, and even potential partners can be scared off unnecessarily merely by having a note on your criminal records, no matter the reason. The good news is that in certain cases it is possible to have a record cleared, but there are limits as to what can be expunged.
The legal term for removing a charge from a criminal record is called expungement. Expungement refers to the process of sealing arrest and conviction records. Almost every state has laws in place that allow people to expunge arrests and convictions from their criminal records. Most states' laws state that once an arrest or conviction has been expunged, you do not need to report it to anyone, even employers or landlords.
Generally, low-level crimes can be erased after a certain time if there was no repeat offense, these include misdemeanors, DUI charges, and other minor crimes. You can also be eligible to expunge a criminal record if you were unlawfully arrested, have shown good behavior since the conviction, or if convicted as a minor and have reached the age of 18. The reason for the clearing a minor’s criminal record when they turn of age is to give them at a chance at a clean slate, sometimes children act without thinking and do not deserve to be treated like a criminal the rest of their lives.
In almost all cases, you need to wait at least 5 years after a conviction before applying for expungement excluding the case of a minor becoming an adult. As a general rule, felony charges are not able to be removed from record except in extenuating circumstances and sexual offenses charges are even more difficult to be removed particularly if they were committed against minors.
How Do I Know If I Am Eligible for Expungement?
To see if you are eligible for removing a charge from your criminal record you first need to check if the state your record is filed in allows for expungement. It is also important to note that there is no general federal expungement statute, and federal courts have no authority to expunge records of a valid federal conviction. The only way to remove a federal offense from the record is by a presidential pardon.
Each state has different laws and requirements for removing charges from a criminal record. Some states do not allow it at all, some simply seal the record, which is similar to removing it.
You are more likely to be eligible to have charges removed from your criminal record if it was a first-time offense, you have conducted no subsequent criminal activity since the crime, and a certain amount of time has passed since the offense. In the past few years, more than 20 states have expanded or added laws to help people move on from their criminal records. This is partially due to the decriminalization of marijuana and the negative effect of having so many recorded criminals within the workforce.
What are the Steps You Should Take to Clear a Criminal Record?
Once you have deducted that you are eligible to remove a charge from your criminal record it may be prudent to hire a lawyer to help with the next steps. While the process varies slightly from state to state it generally is similar in nature no matter where the record is kept.
- The one seeking his/her criminal record cleared (petitioner) must verify their eligibility under state law.
- The petitioner then needs to prepare a petition for expungement, this is usually a standard form which can be found online or through a law office.
- One must file the petition to the same court where the conviction occurred, and serve copies to relevant parties, this most likely includes the prosecutor's office.
- The court will then set a hearing to review the petition, verify that the individual is eligible and see whether expungement is fitting.
- The court will then issue an order either granting or denying the request for expungement.
Certificate of Innocence
One step beyond getting a record expunged is attaining a certificate of innocence. This certificate shows that the record should not have existed in the first place. This is particularly helpful for a public case in which the defendant may have had his name slandered, but was found not guilty, he can show the certificate and without a doubt be recognized as innocent.
The case for wiping criminal records for rehabilitated criminals is becoming a popular cause throughout the United States due to its potential in solving many social and economic issues that these individuals face. In 2019, the 2nd annual National Expungement Week took place in September with over 30 states participating. National Expungement Week offers expungement workshops and legal help to some of the 77 million Americans with convictions on criminal records. These convictions can restrict access to housing, employment, education, public assistance, and voting rights long after sentences have been served. This is but one of the examples of why expunging one's records will become easier in the future.
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