As many as 1 in 3 Americans have some type of criminal record. Criminal record expungement is the process of getting your record physically sealed, destroyed, or otherwise removed from the public sphere. Expungement laws vary from state to state, and some are more beneficial than others. Yet, the main objective of an expungement is to treat your conviction(s) as if they never occurred.
Many states have moved toward expanding or enacting new expungement laws, as they understand the importance of giving citizens a second chance. A criminal record can stand in the way of getting a job, securing stable housing, and more. So, can you expunge a felony criminal record?
Some states provide expungement for felony convictions after waiting a specific time-period. Eligibility will almost always hinge upon the nature of the conviction as well. If expunging your felony is not an option, sealing your criminal record could be. Some states offer one option, and others offer both. For example, the state of California offers neither expungement or record sealing. Instead, the case is re-opened, the guilty plea is withdrawn, and the case is then closed without a conviction. In contrast, Illinois offers criminal record expungement and record sealing.
Removing a criminal record may or may not restore certain rights, such as firearm rights. Again, these details always differ by each state. The difference between expungement and record sealing usually means that sealed records are available to criminal justice agencies, whereas expunged records may be destroyed completely. Furthermore, sealed records may be unsealed if you are charged with another crime at some point in the future.
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Benefits of Criminal Record Expungement
A felony expungement is extremely valuable for many reasons. First, it allows you to legally state that have never been convicted of a crime. This can be beneficial when applying for jobs, submitting applications for housing, and other important situations. Other benefits of an expungement include:
- Becoming eligible for professional licenses you previously did not qualify for
- Increased eligibility for student loans, housing assistance, and government programs
- Improving your ability to obtain higher-paying job opportunities
- Improving access and admission to college and other educational resources
- Eliminating the concern and potential embarrassment of failing a background check by removing public access to sensitive personal information
The expungement of criminal records promotes justice for those wrongfully convicted of a felony. Or, it provides a second chance for those who simply made a mistake and want to change their life and move forward. For many, felony convictions create various obstacles that can be very difficult to overcome.
Can I Expunge a Felony?
Again, every state’s laws are different, but here’s a general rundown of expungement qualifications. Usually, pending criminal charges will disqualify you right off the bat. Next, the average waiting period to seal or expunge an eligible conviction is 3-5 years. This can begin from the date of conviction or the end of sentencing. Also, many states do not allow convictions to be expunged. In these cases, usually expungement is for arrest records, and record sealing is for convictions.
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Before requesting an expungement, it is important to make sure to pay all fines and complete any other court orders caused by the conviction(s). Finally, as mentioned earlier, convictions for sex offenses, or violent crimes are usually not able to be expunged. To be sure whether you are eligible, it’s always best to consult an attorney experienced in such matters.
Every State is Different – Check Your Laws
Whether your felony can be expunged will ultimately be up to state law. The first step to see if your eligible is to get a complete report of your criminal history. This is needed to see which charge(s) are eligible under the law. The laws regarding expungement can be difficult without the assistance of an attorney.
To find out if you’re eligible, take our free and confidential eligibility test. You can see your results within minutes, and even purchase our products right from our website. Check our blog for more information on expungement and other criminal record matters.