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Can I get my criminal record cleared?

Criminal conviction can have a significant impact on everyday life. Not only is there the public stigma of being branded an offender, there are also the hurdles conviction can present for employment, housing and licensing. One of the remedies that may be available is expungement.

Expungement removes a conviction from your criminal record and seals the court file. The general public then no longer has access to it. In effect, once you have a charge or conviction expunged, you have no criminal history.

There are certain requirements and limitations with expungement. This means it is important to work with an experienced attorney to understand the law and to ensure the best arguments are presented on your behalf.

What cannot be expunged?

Certain requirements apply to criminal expungement, both with respect to the convictions for which expungement is sought and the applicant's criminal record. For one thing, certain convictions do not qualify for expungement. These include:

  • rape;
  • child pornography;
  • motor vehicle violations;
  • first- and second-degree felonies; and
  • certain violent first-degree misdemeanors and felonies.

A conviction that resulted in a mandatory prison term would also not qualify for expungement.

The applicant must not have been previously convicted or have multiple convictions on record, unless all of the convictions are based on the same action or the other convictions were for minor misdemeanors. In addition, the applicant must not have previously had any other cases expunged, and must not be facing any pending criminal or traffic proceedings.

Waiting period following completion of a sentence

You generally need to wait for one year after completing a sentence for a misdemeanor conviction that otherwise qualifies for expungement. For otherwise qualifying felonies, at least three years must have passed since jail time and/or probation was completed.

Those who are successful in having their convictions expunged and their record sealed should know that prosecutors, law enforcement, and some government agencies are still able to access a sealed record. A sealed record may even still be used in sentencing for future criminal offenses.

For practical, everyday purposes, though, expungement removes the stigma and consequences of conviction. Expungement, in many ways, is a chance to start over with a clean slate. If you have questions about sealing your criminal record get assistance from an experienced attorney.

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