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How to expunge a criminal record

Expungement will remove an arrest or charge from your criminal record

Permanently expunging your criminal records could eliminate many barriers that you face as someone with a criminal record. Find out about expungement procedures and whether expungement would be beneficial for you.

What is expungement?

Expungement, also known as expunction, is a process to permanently seal your criminal records as though the records never existed. Expunging your criminal record gives you the ability not to disclose your arrests or convictions when asked about your criminal history on a job or other type of application. Each state has different laws and requirements on expunging criminal records.

How is expungement different than sealing?

The purpose of expungement is to eliminate the record entirely. Sealing a record requires people to get permission from the court before they’re able to access your record. In other words, when you seal a record, the record technically still exists. The process and qualifications for sealing are usually different than for expunging. Some states may not even offer expungement, but may offer sealing instead.

Benefits of expungement

Having a criminal record may prevent you from being able to obtain a job or housing. Expungement may prevent your criminal history from showing up on a background check. The most common benefit of expungement is that you don’t need to disclose your arrests or convictions. Expungement may also eliminate barriers to obtaining loans and housing, adopting children, and reinstating your constitutional rights to vote and bear arms. Be sure to check with your state’s laws to find out what benefits expunging your criminal record could provide you.

How do I qualify for expungement?

Each state has different rules about whether a record qualifies for expunging. Usually, the laws require that a certain amount of time has passed. State laws may also consider the severity of the crime or conduct, other arrests or convictions, and the severity of those other arrests or convictions.

Which convictions can I expunge?

Each state also has different rules about which types of convictions may be expunged. Some states do not even offer expungement for convictions, but may expunge arrest records. In most states, misdemeanors and juvenile convictions stand a better chance at being expunged. This includes offenses such as drug possession and petty theft. Most states do not offer expungement for felony convictions such as sex crimes, serious assault crimes, and serious theft crimes. Sometimes, whether your conviction qualifies for expungement depends on the sentence that you received for the crime. Generally, the lower the sentence, the more likely you will be able to expunge the record.

What cannot be expunged?

In addition to serious felony offenses, courts are not likely to expunge records for multiple offenses. Pending charges also do not qualify for expungement.

How much does it cost to expunge my criminal records?

The cost of expunging criminal records can vary. If you hire an attorney to help you with the process, he or she may charge anywhere from $1000 to $2500. If you do not have an attorney, you will almost certainly have to pay filing fees to the court. These filing fees may cost anywhere between $50 to $200.

Do I need a lawyer to expunge my criminal records?

You do not necessarily need an attorney to expunge your criminal records. In fact, many courts provide information about how to expunge records, as well as the forms you may need to submit. In this sense, expunging records can be simple and easy.

However, hiring an attorney may benefit you because they can inform you about the procedures for expungement in your state and whether your criminal records qualify for expungement.

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