Expunging a Criminal Record: Wiping the Slate Clean

By: Kat Saks August 11, 2012
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Ready to close the books on a past crime? You might be able to clean your criminal record with an expungement. Expungement procedures vary from state to state.

Read on to learn more about expungement and hiring the right person to help you through the process.

What is Expungement of a Criminal Record?

An expungement is a type of suit that you can bring before a court if you are a prior criminal offender with only one conviction.

In an expungement case, you would ask a judge to make your criminal record unavailable in state and federal records. Typically, if you win, your criminal record is removed; however, in some areas, your criminal record might still be available to law enforcement, sentencing judges, immigration officials or correction facilities.

Research your state's rules and regulations on expungement to learn more.

Is Expungement the Same as a Pardon?

Quite simply, no.

An expungement allows you to wipe the slate clean on your criminal conviction. Basically, if you successfully expunge your criminal record, you can move on as if your conviction never occurred. Generally, this means the conviction no longer shows up during a criminal record check.

A pardon, on the other hand, stays on your criminal record. A pardon constitutes forgiveness of a conviction, but does not remove it from your record. Instead, the pardon would appear as part of your criminal history.

Also, while only a judge can issue an expungement, a governor, attorney general, secretary of state, or even the President might issue a pardon.

Happy Man with his Lawyer

What are the Benefits of Expungement?

Expungement has a big benefit to a prior criminal offender. If you expunge your criminal conviction from your record, the conviction is no longer public information.

An expunged conviction will not show up on your criminal record and therefore won't show up on background checks. So, the next time a potential employer wants to perform a criminal background check before hiring you, you can breathe a sigh of relief. Your expunged criminal offense won't show up in their search and you can decide for yourself whether you want to share that aspect of your past.

How to Expunge a Criminal Record

Unless you feel confident navigating the ins and outs of the legal system, you might want to hire a criminal defense attorney to help in your expungement case.

A criminal law attorney can help you in many ways if you seek an expungement:

  • Advise you on the likelihood of winning your expungement case.
  • Complete paperwork and necessary forms.
  • Answer your legal questions pertaining to the suit.
  • Accompany you to the court hearing.
  • Speak on your behalf in court.
  • Advocate for your expungement.

Consider hiring a criminal defense attorney to assist you along the way.

Have you ever had a criminal record expunged? What was the process like for you? Share your experience in the comments section below.

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