Could Your Criminal Record Be Expunged?

Could a change in your criminal record change your life? Right now, there's a rare bipartisan effort in Congress to pass what is commonly called the "Clean Slate Act." If it passes, the law would automatically seal the criminal records of anyone who was arrested for minor marijuana-related offenses in the federal system. That could, potentially, change the lives of millions by giving them a clean record. Many people suffer problems finding housing, getting jobs, or obtaining an education because of minor criminal records. 

However, you don't necessarily have to wait and hope this bill passes to get your criminal record sealed. For that matter, you may be eligible to have your record expunged even if your offense was something more serious. Here's what you need to know.

Who Is Entitled To Expungement?

Expungement (or "expunction," depending on where you live) isn't available to everyone. Your eligibility depends largely on three factors:

  • The kind of crime you have on your record (misdemeanor vs. felony, violent vs. nonviolent)
  • The length of time it has been since you've committed a crime (the longer, the more likely you're eligible for some form of relief)
  • The state you live in (each state has its own criteria)

In recent years, many states have broadened their laws regarding who is eligible for expungement -- or are in the process of doing so. North Carolina, for example, is pushing through a "Second Chance Act" that would apply to both misdemeanor and felony convictions. New Jersey is also pushing through legislation that would wipe many marijuana-related criminal records clean. So, even if you've been looked into the possibility of an expungement before and found that you weren't eligible, it may be worth checking again.

What Does Expungement Do?

Essentially, it closes the book on your prior criminal record. Ordinarily, you would not need to disclose your conviction to anyone on a job application, apartment application, or other forms. In addition, your record would ordinarily not appear in any background searches performed by potential employers, creditors, schools, private investigators or landlords.

Your record would usually still be obtainable by law enforcement and government agencies -- and could be used as part of the factors that affect your sentencing if you're arrested and convicted again for another crime.

How Can You Find Out More?

Because the laws dealing with expungement vary so much from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, the smartest thing you can do is engage a law firm's services in order to find out more about your eligibility and how to proceed. If your old criminal record is holding you back, it's definitely worth the effort to find out more.

Get in touch with a company like Johnson/Turner Legal for more information.