Got Priors? How to Expunge Criminal Records

By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on February 24, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

With the spread of the Internet, information about a person's criminal history is quickly available to anyone with a few bucks to spend. This means that even those with the tiniest of infractions might have trouble finding work, a place to live, or even being granted a credit card. If you have a prior, it just might be wise to look into the expungement of criminal records.

Here's a quick explanation of what it means to expunge criminal records, whether your priors are eligible for an expungement, and how to go about starting the process.

Expungement of Criminal Records: The Effect

An expungement is essentially a court-ordered process that results in a criminal conviction or arrest being sealed. Sealed, however, does not mean erased. The prior will remain on the record and be accessible to law enforcement and most government agencies. It, however, should not show up on background checks.

Expungement of criminal records also has the immediate effect of releasing a person from disclosure obligations. Expunged convictions do not need to be disclosed when applying for jobs or an apartment.

Expungement of Criminal Records: The When

It's important to note that expungement rules vary from state to state, and may also vary by county. Whether you will be able to expunge your criminal record depends on a variety of factors. Did the conviction occur when you were a minor? How much time has passed? Was it a felony or misdemeanor? Violent or non-violent? What is your overall criminal history?

Additionally, some states, such as New York and Arizona, don't permit courts to expunge criminal records.

Expungement of Criminal Records: The How

Expungement usually requires a person to fill out a petition, which is then filed with the proper criminal court. Some jurisdictions permit this form to be filed via the Internet, and others may require that you pay a fee. To add to this, some states also require the District Attorney to be served with papers in case there is an objection.

As you can tell, there are a lot of factors involved in expunging a criminal record. Depending on your state and situation, it may be wise to hire a criminal defense attorney to handle the expungement for you.

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