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What is Expungement?

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Expungement is an important part of the criminal justice process. It occurs when someone’s legal record of arrest or conviction is effectively “erased” and no longer needs to be reported on documents such as rental or job applications. When someone’s criminal record is expunged, it is technically “sealed.” It does not disappear entirely, but it is only accessible to certain government agencies or criminal courts.

Depending on your state and local laws, expungement may or may not be possible. Additionally, the location, type of crime, duration of time passed, and other criminal charges or arrests could all affect someone’s eligibility to have their record expunged. To learn more about how to apply for an expungement of a criminal record, contact a criminal defense attorney to learn more about the process and initial steps that need to be taken.

How to File for Expungement

It is important to remember that the requirements to file for expungement, also referred to as “expunction”, can vary greatly from state to state, so it’s important to look up your state’s requirements and contact a criminal defense attorney in your area. In some places, a state might require the help of an attorney for a person filing for expungement, while other places might require the applicant to fill out the application itself.

Let’s go over some steps to filing for expungement:

  • Look into expungement eligibility requirements for your state. Some states require a certain amount of time to have passed from the crime itself before expungement can be considered. Certain crimes may not be eligible for expungement.
  • Collect required documents to file for expungement. Examples of some documents which might need to be filed with an expungement application include a notice of the hearing and petition for expungement to prosecuting attorney, notice to the victim, proof of service, order concerning expunging the record, and order to seal the record.
  • Prepare an expungement application. It’s a good idea to contact a criminal defense attorney to look over your application for expungement to make sure no vital piece of information is missing before submitting the application.
  • Attend a hearing before a judge to consider granting the expungement. In some states, a person petitioning for expungement of their criminal record will need to go before a judge who will then assess their application and determine whether the arrest or conviction is eligible for expungement.

Litigation is Evolving Regarding What Crimes Are Eligible for Expungement

Many states and counties are making more crimes eligible for expungement that previously might have prevented otherwise deserving individuals from receiving fair employment and housing opportunities. Convictions for crimes such as marijuana possession and human trafficking victims have been made expungeable in many places to prevent any unjust biases from providing these individuals with the same opportunities of others in their situation. These changes in litigation are referred to as “clean slate” laws and are designed to automate expungement and sealing of eligible individuals’ records.

While some people have opposed this push in legislation to make more crimes expungeable, fearing that it allows unsafe individuals to go undetected, it’s important to note that according to a study by the University of Michigan Law School, 96% of Michiganders within five years of having their record sealed had not committed any more crimes. This percentage has promising implications for further evolutions of expungement laws seeking to help individuals recover from their convictions and return to positions with the potential to contribute to society.

Seek Legal Counsel from a Criminal Defense Attorney

If you or a loved one are seeking expungement for an arrest or conviction, contact a criminal defense attorney in your area to discuss your eligibility as well as the initial steps to take to begin the process of applying for expungement. If you think you are being wrongly denied an opportunity for housing, education, or something else due to an expunged or sealed criminal record, seek legal counsel to learn what kind of corrective options are available to you.

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