For those arrested and charged with a crime, there may come a time when you want to make that charge disappear. Whether you were convicted or not, an arrest record remains in place. When it comes to taking steps like applying for an apartment lease or a job, the arrest must often be revealed, at times to your detriment. Expungement allows an opportunity to erase that arrest. Read on to find out more about your chances for accomplishing expungement.
Are You Eligible for Expungement of Your Record?
This manner of hiding or erasing a charge from a criminal record is available in all states but the exact conditions that allow expungement varies. In most cases, a valid arrest and consequential conviction on a criminal charge is not eligible for expungement. The following factors influence the potential for a successful expungement:
1. Arrest vs. conviction – If you are convicted of a crime, it may be more difficult to have your record expunged. In most cases, if you were not convicted, your chances of expungement are good.
2. The severity of the crime – Violent offenses, felonies, and sex offense records are never expunged.
3. Time since arrest or conviction – Every state has rules about the waiting period after an arrest or conviction before you can be eligible for an expungement. In most cases, three or more years must have elapsed before a record may be expunged.
4. Punishment served – If you were convicted, you must have completed the terms of your probation or diversion program prior to expungement. The waiting period does not begin until your punishments have been completed.
5. Subsequent criminal activity – You probably won't have much success with an expungement request if you have committed subsequent crimes (or if you have previous occurrences of the same crime).
The Limits of Expungement
The advantages of a successful expungement can be considerable but some factors can affect just how invisible your previous record might be:
1. Visible to the prosecution and judge – If you end up in court on other charges, your previous record can be viewed (and considered) by judges and prosecutors when it comes to plea bargains, charges, sentencing, and more. For example, previous convictions of certain crimes will result in a stiffer sentence.
2. The internet never forgets – If your arrest ended up online, it may live on regardless of expungement.
3. Sensitive jobs – In most cases, expungement makes your information invisible on most background checks. Certain classes of jobs may be able to view expunged records. Jobs in law enforcement, government work, and work that involves protected classes like children and the disabled might be exempt from blocking.
To find out more about expungement, speak to a criminal defense attorney.