No one wants a criminal record to adversely impact their ability to find employment or take advantage of educational opportunities. Depending on the extent of your criminal history, whether your charges are misdemeanors or felonies, whether or not you were convicted, and whether you were an adult or juvenile at the time of the charge, however, you may have options for cleaning up your criminal record. Most states have either an expungement process, a record-sealing process, or both. If you’re successful, you will no longer have to disclose embarrassing charges to most employers. A criminal defense lawyer in your area should be able to assist you with the process.
What is expungement?
In legal terms, an expungement is a complete erasure of your record, so in criminal law, an expungement would mean that for all intents and purposes, your criminal record never existed. An expungement is a more thorough cleaning of your record than a sealing, which we will discuss in the next section. Many states, including California, do not have a provision in the law for the expungement of an adult record.
What is sealing a criminal record?
Unlike expungement, when the court seals your record, it still exists, but it is not a matter of public record. That means that only certain parties can view it. For instance, if you apply for most jobs or to school and they perform a criminal background check, they won’t be able to see the sealed charge. There are exceptions. Certain government agencies, like the military and police departments, are still able to access the record.
When can my record be sealed or expunged?
The answer to this question varies from state to state. Most juvenile criminal histories can be expunged or sealed. As was previously mentioned, many states, like California, do not have expungement for adult crimes. Many states allow for sealing or expungement under the following circumstances.
● First offense misdemeanors
● Arrests where the charges were dropped prior to filing
● Situations where the prosecutor drops the case
● Situations where the defendant wins in trial
● Reversals of convictions upon appeal
● When it’s part of a negotiated plea
● When the defendant completes a pretrial intervention (usually for first-time drug and alcohol offenses)
Because the laws vary, you should discuss the possibility with your criminal defense lawyer at your earliest convenience. They should be able to inform you whether or not your circumstance would allow expungement or sealing.
Steps to Expungement or Sealing of Adult Criminal Records
If you’ve been charged with a crime, it’s never too early to start thinking about keeping your criminal record as clean as possible. Here are a few things you can do to improve your chances.
● Ask your criminal defense lawyer about the possibility of expunction or sealing. Believe it or not, not everyone cares. Your attorney may be able to work it in as part of a negotiated plea. In addition, they should also be able to tell you whether or not it’s possible in your situation.
● Be patient. You can’t have your record expunged or sealed while the conviction process is ongoing.