When Can a Conviction be Expunged?

Written by AskTheLawyers.com™ on behalf of Samuel E. Bassett with Minton, Bassett, Flores and Carsey.

When Can a Conviction be Expunged?
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A conviction or formal declaration of guilt following a criminal offense can create difficulties in regard to an individual’s employment, academic, and even housing options. Having a criminal record can greatly inhibit a person’s life and future opportunities, as well as those of their family. The good news is that in some cases it may be possible to expunge the record or file for an order of nondisclosure, effectively erasing the conviction and/or concealing it from the public record. 

It should be noted that while an expunged record effectively destroys the arrest and conviction records, an order of nondisclosure simply prevents law enforcement agencies and third parties from revealing any information about the arrest or conviction. Convictions that have been expunged or that are subject to an order of nondisclosure can be legally denied if someone is questioned about them.

Not all convictions are eligible for expunction.

It’s important to note that all convictions are eligible to be expunged. Felonies and Class A and B misdemeanors typically cannot be expunged. In fact, expunction is generally only available for certain Class C misdemeanors; for example, public intoxication, traffic offenses, minors in possession of alcohol, and disorderly conduct are typically categorized as Class C misdemeanors and may be expunged after a period of time and completion of probation if ordered. 

However, some Class C misdemeanors may not be expungeable until five years have passed from the date of the offense. If an expunction is granted for a conviction, law enforcement and recording agencies will be required to destroy any records associated with the individual’s arrest and conviction. Once a record has been officially expunged or subject to an order of nondisclosure, the individual in question is legally allowed to deny the conviction and is under no obligation to discuss it with curious parties.

Successfully completed probation may increase eligibility for expunction.

If someone was convicted of a misdemeanor and thereafter successfully completes their ordered jail time, penalty, and/or probationary period, that person has a much better chance of having their record expunged. In fact, if someone is keeping closely in line with their probationary sentence, it may be possible to argue for an early release from probation and expungement depending on the details of the case. However, if someone did not complete their probation as assigned, it will be much harder to argue for an expunction. 

Regardless, successfully filing for an expunction or for an order of nondisclosure typically requires the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney. The law regarding eligibility for expunction is complex, and each case needs to be assessed on an individual basis, allowing an attorney to make the best argument possible based on the specific circumstances of the case in question. The laws for criminal record expunction can also vary from state to state, so it’s important to talk to an experienced criminal defense attorney in your state about your options. While involving an attorney might sound like a hassle, it’s important to keep in mind that the obstacles presented by a visible criminal record can be significantly more inconvenient than reaching out for help.

To learn more about when and how to have a criminal record expunged, or to discuss your specific situation, reach out to an experienced criminal defense attorney in your area.

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