What is an expungement? For the uninitiated, expungement means “no longer needed.” In the legal system, an expunged proceeding is essentially a kind of civil lawsuit where a first time defendant of a prior criminal offense seeks that all the criminal record information of that prior offense be sealed, rendering the record file unavailable through either the state or Federal registries. The first-time defendants (or their attorneys) generally file the complaint with the circuit court and then seek an action for “expungement.”
An example of what is expungement could be a man who has been arrested for breaking and entering, and is now being investigated for murder. Should that person’s prior criminal history to be discovered upon doing a background check on him, the search would uncover the prior charges, as well as other incidents of crime that he might have been charged with. Suppose the person had previously been arrested for selling drugs, and that he was later convicted of selling cocaine. If he were to apply for and be granted a certificate of expungement, then at the time of application his record would show that the charges against him were dropped, but could still show that he had been convicted of selling drugs.
The common question that most people ask about what is expungement, is whether or not it is available to felons. Felons are not subject to the same sealing requirements as minor offenders. Depending upon the jurisdiction, felons can often apply for expungement and have their records sealed. However, sealing a criminal record after the offender has served part of their sentence is quite rare.
Obtaining what is expunged from a criminal record is the next step. If you have been arrested and charged with a crime, and are looking to have portions of your record sealed, you should contact your local courthouse. Most local law enforcement agencies handle expunging records. If this does not work, you may wish to consult an attorney experienced with this type of sealing.
If you want your record sealed but do not have money to hire an attorney, you may wish to review expungement laws in your state. Your state may require you to register and pay a fee before your record can be expunged. Typically, felony charges result in a larger amount of sealing fees than other criminal charges. However, this is not always the case. The expunging legislation may vary among different states, and you should certainly check with your state’s justice department.
Expungement can have a number of consequences. Typically, if you have been charged with a felony, your record will be expunged. This means that you will not be able to obtain a firearm, apply for a passport or even obtain credit. Some charges such as child pornography can be expunged, but the record of the charges will still remain in the criminal files.
You may be concerned about what is expungement and how it works. Often, you will not have to worry about how your record is sealed. A court will seal the record once it has been determined that your rights have been legally lost. In other cases, private parties may petition the court to seal the file. When this process occurs, it can take several months to a year for the sealed records to be removed from public access.
When your rights have been legally restored, you may be able to petition the sealing to be reversed. You can do this through the court that initially sealed your record. However, in many states, it must be done through the circuit court. There are many different laws that surround what is expunged and whether or not it can be reversed. If this process sounds like the right one for you, contact a criminal defense attorney.