What Is Record Expungement and How Can It Work For Me?

If you have a criminal conviction, you may find that it stands in the way of your life. It might stop you from getting a job. You may have difficulty traveling to Canada or another country.

When you try to volunteer at your child’s event, they might turn you away. If your conviction is a felony, it may prevent you from lawfully possessing a firearm. For people who have one or more criminal convictions, they don’t need to be told that it can stand in the way of their life. Even a conviction that’s very old can be a hardship.

How Can Expungement Help?

Fortunately, Americans can look at their state laws in order to see if expungement can work for them. Record expungement occurs when a state agrees to make a person’s criminal record non-public. When an employer or anyone else asks if a person has any convictions, they can honestly answer “no” if they’ve had their record expunged. The state still keeps the record, but no one can see it.

Do I Qualify?

What Is Record Expungement and How Can It Work For Me?

Americans need to look at the rules for their individual state to determine if they qualify for expungement. Each state makes their own rules for eligibility. Although the rules are different in every state, there are some rules that overlap in many states.

For example, most states don’t expunge drunk driving convictions. Many states don’t expunge any traffic offenses. Most states don’t expunge anything involving violence such as assault and battery, aggravated assault or any kind of domestic violence. Sexual crimes aren’t eligible in most cases either.

Each state has its own rules about what types of convictions are eligible and how many convictions can be expunged. A state might allow one felony only. A state might allow up to two misdemeanors. It’s important to look at the law of the individual state to determine eligibility.

What’s the Process?

There are a series of steps to seeking an expungement, but the process is manageable. In most cases you need to file an application with the court. Some states collect your fingerprints and require you to notify the state’s attorney of your application. Typically, you have a court date for a decision about your expungement.

If a criminal history stands in your way, it may be the time to consider expungement. If your application is successful, your criminal history becomes nonpublic. This can help you get a new job, go hunting or explore a new volunteer opportunity.


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