Expungement: Getting Legal Help

Created by FindLaw's team of legal writers and editors.

Where and when it's available, expungement of an arrest or conviction can be a valuable tool for anyone who wants to clear up their criminal record. But determining eligibility for expungement and completing the required steps in the process can be complicated.

An attorney's assistance navigating the system can help avoid unnecessary expense or miscommunication that can result in the denial of an expungement. An expunged record may still be available to law enforcement officials, judges, and corrections officials in future proceedings. A later conviction can, in some jurisdictions, result in the resurrection of expunged records, leaving you right back where you started. Federal convictions cannot be expunged at all.

If you have the option of scrubbing your record through an expungement, getting legal help may be a smart move. Learn more in the sections below.

Will Expungement Really Help?

There are a number of situations in which an expungement won't fix your problems. If you're seeking to expunge a record for immigration purposes, you might want to reconsider. Intending immigrants are required to disclose all arrests and convictions regardless of whether they've been expunged. An expungement, in this situation, may even complicate attempts to acquire documentation required by the Immigration Service.

If you're seeking expungement in order to apply for a state professional license, a job relating to security, or if you're considering seeking public office, an expunged conviction will still need to be disclosed. Some convictions may result in the automatic denial of licensure regardless of your expungement.

Because of these and similar circumstances there is a possibility that an expungement, even if it's available and granted, won't solve your problems. An attorney can help you determine whether an expungement will help your unique situation and discuss other options that may better meet your needs.

Easier Said Than Done

There are many different factors that influence whether a court will be willing to grant an expungement. Certain crimes are virtually always ineligible for expungement, while even minor crimes typically have conditions that must be met in order to qualify for expungement, which is often viewed as a discretionary action on the part of the court even where a crime is eligible and conditions are met.

Most jurisdictions require that the petitioner have few convictions and no arrests or convictions for a significant period before applying. The petitioner certainly must have completed the punishment and probation for their most recent conviction, but there's often a significant period of time that needs to pass since the completion of a sentence or probation before the petitioner becomes eligible for expungement

The seriousness of the conviction is carefully considered, as are statements by probation officers, prison authorities, and others regarding the petitioner's rehabilitation. Most jurisdictions will refuse to grant expungement for most felonies that involve rape, murder, sexual assault, crimes against minors, and serious weapons charges. Even relatively minor convictions can prevent the grant of expungement if there are too many of them.

Expungement: Get Legal Help Today

If you're considering an expungement, getting legal help may be a smart move. An experienced attorney will be able to explain what (if any) expungement options are available in your state or county for your particular circumstances, and will guide you through each step in the expungement application process. Find a criminal law attorney near you today.

Next Steps

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