When can someone expunge or seal a criminal record?

One of the more difficult aspects of the legal system is how a bad decision or mistake can haunt you for years, if not the rest of your life. For those who’ve been accused of committing a crime, this can have significant disruptions to many areas of your life. It can make finding work and housing difficult, and it can leave a lasting stigma on your reputation.

Unfortunately, many of the people who live with these disruptions have significantly changed their ways and are living as close to a normal life as possible. Still, their past haunts them and makes it difficult to thrive.

It’s possible in certain circumstances to seal a record and largely prevent it from being publicly available, or in some cases even completely expunge a criminal charge, which treats it like it never occurred.

Cases where sealing a record is an option

The following are some of the primary circumstances where it’s possible to get your record sealed:

  • Prostitution
  • Class 4 felony possession of controlled substances and cannabis
  • Illegal carrying or possession of a firearm
  • Most misdemeanor convictions
  • Most acquittals and dismissals for felonies or misdemeanors

It’s important to note that there are still circumstances in which a sealed record can be accessed, such as during an employment screening that requires fingerprints, or by law enforcement and prosecutors.

There are many situations in which sealing your records is not possible, such as most violent crimes or cases of animal cruelty.

Cases where expungement is an option

Expungement is more difficult to obtain. If you’ve been convicted previously, even once, you may be ineligible for it in some cases. However, the following conviction-free circumstances can be expunged:

  • Cases where no probable cause was found
  • When a prosecutor abandons a case entirely (nolle prosequi)
  • If you’re found not guilty

And once a certain number of years have passed, so can:

  • Probation
  • Drug offenses
  • Firearm/weapons possession

The expungement option enables you to regain access to many of the rights that you may have lost prior to your conviction.

An experienced attorney can help you begin the process of re-establishing your own rights so you can rebuild your life.

FindLaw Network