About 70 million adults in the US — one in three — have criminal records. These records can affect a person’s job, housing or licensing opportunities and have long-lasting effects.
Getting your records cleared can be a difficult and costly process, but it’s possible to have your record sealed or expunged in many states. With help from a lawyer, you can erase some of the negative impacts of your past criminal record.
What crimes can be expunged?
A criminal conviction, arrest or other information that’s not a conviction can be removed from public databases after a court approves the sealing or expungement. When this occurs, the court clerk will remove the information from their database and the court website and no one will be able to see it.
There are a few types of crimes and felonies that cannot be expunged in the United States, however. These include sexual crimes, convictions against children, violent crimes involving great bodily harm or death, terrorism, and other serious offenses.
These crimes can make it difficult for you to get a good job or apartment, and they can also prevent you from securing a professional license or gaining access to certain services and benefits.
Some state laws allow people with a criminal record to get their records automatically cleared after they meet certain requirements, such as paying court debt or making restitution. At least 11 states have automatic expungement laws, according to the Collateral Consequences Resource Center.
Other states have laws that allow individuals to petition for expungement or seal their records after they have completed a specific period of time, such as a probationary term. The waiting period can range from a few months to up to a decade, depending on the severity of the crime.
The laws, rules and procedures for expungement vary widely by state, so it’s a good idea to consult with a lawyer before pursuing the process.
In general, non-conviction records are easier to clear than convictions. You’ll need to go through a process with the local court or the court that handled your case and pay a fee.
Most states allow a person to expunge their records after they are acquitted of a crime, have a pardon from the Governor of Texas or the President of the United States, or have the statute of limitations expire. Typically, a criminal defense attorney can explain the process to you in detail and help you get your records cleaned up.
Felonies are often extremely difficult to expunge because these crimes often result in a conviction. Some states will even put restrictions on the type of charges that can be expunged, so it’s a good idea for you to talk with a lawyer before filing.
If you have questions about what crimes can be expunged in your state, or whether you qualify for the expungement process, contact a criminal attorney today!
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