Moving forward after a criminal arrest or conviction is not as easy as just obeying the law from now on. Of course, that is a good start, but your past illegal actions can follow you well into your future.
How do you get rid of the shadow of your criminal record looming over you? You can apply for an expungement, meaning the permanent removal of certain information from your criminal record. However, this is not an all-inclusive solution.
Before applying, you must meet the requirements for expungement. Some criminal history can easily go away easily, such as an arrest and release with no charges, a dismissal of charges and a not-guilty verdict. However, for more serious charges and crimes, the standards are higher. They cannot have involved violence, DUI or sexual offenses. Also, you must wait five years after serving your prison term or completing probation or parole. Other conditions may apply depending on your circumstances.
Filing for expungement
If you are eligible, you can petition for an expungement for a fee with the court involved in the original case. You may have to complete multiple forms for multiple charges. Once you do your part, the rest of the process takes up to two months. You can request faster processing for adoption, fingerprinting and firearm purchases.
Note that expungement does not automatically clear the records from private background-check companies, as they may not always use updated information. You may have to contact these companies to have them remove your criminal record from their data.
Value of expungement
The process may take time, effort and money, but it all will be worth it. Clearing your criminal record as much as you can will have positive consequences on your life. It can open up more employment and housing opportunities. It can also give you the feeling of a clean slate so you can move on with your life.
Strictly speaking, one does not need a lawyer to obtain an expungement. However, a lawyer can review your situation to determine whether you are truly eligible, prepare all of the necessary paperwork and speed your petition through the system.