Nearly 70 million Americans have a criminal record. A criminal record is a document that lists a person’s arrests and convictions. Such records are accessible to police, courts, landlords, employers, and many more organizations. Consequently, having a criminal record can limit one’s access to employment, education, housing, and assistance programs. Therefore, the collateral damage of a criminal record affects individuals and families alike. Fortunately, there are some ways that a burdened individual can expunge their record and erase the evidence of a criminal past. There are four things that an individual interested in record expungement should know:
- Clearing a Record. In the United States, some criminal records may be expunged as a method of granting a convicted individual a fresh start. An expungement removes arrests and/or convictions from a person’s criminal record entirely. Expunged records cannot even be accessed by the court, while sealed records are protected from public view, but can still be accessed through court instruction.
- State Practices. Most states provide some form of expungement and/or sealing for varying types of records. However, the federal government does not currently have an accepted mechanism for clearing federal conviction records. As a result, individuals seeking an expungement should review their jurisdiction’s laws for local policies.
- Disadvantages. While expunging a criminal record provides many benefits, there are some disadvantages that may stop a person from seeking an expungement. Expungements and sealings typically require the individual to file a petition, appear in court, and serve a waiting period without reoffending. These steps may cost hundreds of dollars in legal and administrative fees, which dissuades many eligible expungement candidates from pursuing these legal options.
- Eligibility. Across the country, states are classifying more criminal records as eligible for expungement and sealing, including drug offenses. States are also making more thorough efforts to expand expungement opportunities by making them more affordable and accessible. In particular, Texas has recently began making more direct efforts by removing vague language in statutes, requiring transparency from licensing boards, and eliminating blanket bans on people with records from obtaining certain professional licenses.
Record expungement opens a variety of doors for individuals with criminal records when they work with an experienced criminal defense lawyer, like from Brandy Austin Law Firm, PLLC. Before expungement, convicted individuals may be ineligible for certain jobs, housing opportunities, and national benefits; however, expungement allows these individuals to experience a fresh start and truly begin again. Ultimately, while expungement is relatively new, future expansion promises a bright future for all American citizens.