If you have a criminal record, you may be wondering how it affects your life and what you can do to clear it. A criminal record can limit your opportunities for employment, education, housing, and other benefits. It can also affect your reputation and self-esteem.
Fortunately, there are legal options available to help you expunge or seal your criminal record, depending on your situation and the state laws. Learn more on what expungement and sealing are, how they differ, who is eligible for them, and how a criminal defense attorney can help you with the process.
What is Expungement and Sealing?
Expungement and sealing are two legal processes that can remove or restrict access to your criminal record. Expungement means that your criminal record is erased or destroyed, as if it never existed. Sealing means that your criminal record is hidden from public view, but not erased. Both expungement and sealing can help you avoid the negative consequences of having a criminal record.
How Do Expungement and Sealing Differ?
Expungement and sealing have different effects on your criminal record and your rights. Expungement is more comprehensive and permanent than sealing. When your record is expunged, it is completely deleted from the databases of law enforcement agencies, courts, and other government entities.
You can legally deny that you have ever been arrested or convicted of a crime, unless you are applying for a job that requires a security clearance or a license that involves public trust. You also have the right to vote, serve on a jury, own a firearm, and hold public office.
When your record is sealed, it is still accessible to certain entities, such as law enforcement agencies, courts, prosecutors, and some employers who are authorized by law to conduct background checks.
However, most private employers, landlords, schools, and other organizations cannot access or use your sealed record against you. You may still have to disclose your sealed record in some situations, such as when you apply for a professional license or a government job.
Who is Eligible for Expungement and Sealing?
The eligibility criteria for expungement and sealing vary by state and by the type and severity of the offense. Generally speaking, expungement is more difficult to obtain than sealing. Some factors that may affect your eligibility include:
- The amount of time that has passed since your arrest or conviction
- The completion of your sentence, probation, parole, or other court requirements
- The nature and number of your charges or convictions
- The existence of any pending charges or warrants
- The impact of your record on your rehabilitation and reintegration into society
Some examples of offenses that may be eligible for expungement or sealing are:
- Misdemeanor and felony offenses that were dismissed, acquitted, pardoned, or reversed on appeal
- Nonviolent offenses that were completed without any violations or incidents
- Juvenile offenses that occurred before the age of 18
- First-time offenses that were committed under certain circumstances or conditions
Examples of offenses that may not be eligible for expungement or sealing are:
- Violent offenses such as murder, rape, kidnapping, assault, domestic violence, etc.
- Sex offenses such as prostitution, sex crimes against minors, child pornography, etc.
- Drug offenses involving trafficking, manufacturing, or distribution of controlled substances
- DUI offenses involving alcohol or drugs
- Repeat offenses that show a pattern of criminal behavior
How Can a Criminal Defense Attorney Help You with Expunging or Sealing Your Record?
Expunging or sealing your record is not an easy or automatic process. It requires filing a petition with the court where your case was handled, providing supporting documents and evidence, paying fees and costs, attending hearings, and complying with any orders or conditions imposed by the judge.
The process can be complex, lengthy, and confusing. You may encounter legal obstacles or opposition from the prosecutor or the victim. You may also make mistakes that could jeopardize your chances of success.
That is why you need the help of an experienced Okoye Law criminal defense attorney who can guide you through the process and advocate for your best interests. A criminal defense attorney can:
- Evaluate your eligibility for expungement or sealing based on your specific case and state laws
- Advise you on the pros and cons of expungement or sealing and the potential outcomes
- Prepare and file the necessary paperwork and documentation with the court
- Communicate and negotiate with the prosecutor and the victim on your behalf
- Represent you at any hearings and present your case to the judge
- Follow up with the court and the agencies to ensure that your record is properly expunged or sealed
- Protect your rights and interests throughout the process
In conclusion, having a criminal record can have far-reaching consequences on various aspects of your life, including employment, education, housing, reputation, and self-esteem. However, it is important to note that there are legal avenues available to individuals seeking to clear their records.
Expungement and sealing are two options that may be accessible depending on your specific circumstances and the laws of your state. Never let your past mistakes haunt you forever. It’s highly recommended that you consult an experienced Okoye Law criminal defense attorney and find out how he or she can help you clear your record and restore your reputation.