It is estimated that 70-100 million Americans carry some type of criminal record. With this, more than 30 million American children have at least one parent with a criminal record. These records, though detrimental to accessing many of life’s opportunities, do have the potential to be removed. Let’s first examine what a criminal record is and how it can negatively affect you.
What is a Criminal Record, and Why is it Bad to Have One?
The American Justice system maintains criminal record accounts for one’s arrests and convictions. This record is available to the public and agencies such as the police, prosecutors, and courts.
A criminal record can inhibit access to opportunities such as employment since these records are available to the general public. Employers, landlords, college admissions officers, and many others can deny you opportunities because of these criminal records. Statistics show that 90% of landlords and 95% of employers use background checks when screening applicants. Even with no conviction, a minor misdemeanor can significantly affect an individual’s employment prospects. In addition, a parent’s criminal record can significantly affect their child’s access to employment and harm their long-term well-being. As you can see, criminal records can make it difficult to tackle new opportunities for you and your family and can become a frustrating obstacle to overcome in the job and house markets.
Luckily, in the United States, certain types of criminal records can be expunged or sealed by a judge or court.
2 Ways to Overcome a Criminal Record
One may overcome a criminal record by expunging or sealing the record.
Expunging a criminal record means removing it entirely from the criminal system. Many minor misdemeanors that did not lead to conviction can be expunged after two years of the given sentence. State-specific requirements need to be met for a felony to be expunged.
On the other hand, sealing a criminal record will keep it in the criminal system but will restrict it from public view. It’s similar to legally hiding your record. A court order is the only way to access a sealed criminal record.
The Expungement or Sealing Process
The laws regarding expunging and sealing vary from state to state. It is normal to qualify for expungement in one state and not the other. However, misdemeanors are easily expunged in most states. In some states, expungement or sealing is only possible if the court record was a mistake or the victim’s identity was stolen. In others, some crimes do not qualify for sealing or expunging. This may include sexual and violent crimes.
You should note that most states consider several factors before sealing or expunging a crime. For instance, they may check the severity of the crime, when it was committed, and whether you served a sentence for the crime. In most states, the application process is pretty much the same, with minor variations. You start by submitting an application petition that must be submitted to seal or expunge the record. Furthermore, the application must be accompanied by proof of the court showing you served a sentence for the crimes committed. In some situations, a state may require a fee for the application process.
Once the application is submitted, the judge decides whether to seal or expunge the record. In some cases, a prosecutor may oppose the application, after which a hearing is arranged to determine the case. It is best to seek the services of a criminal defense lawyer to guide you through the entire process. This individual might inform you whether your conviction is eligible for sealing or expunging based on underlying factors such as the state and severity of the conviction.
If you have a past criminal record, you might be pleased to know that it does not have to haunt you for the rest of your life. Do not hesitate to apply for your record to be expunged or sealed, and work towards opportunities that may be closed off to you now.
[Image via Addair Law]
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