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Do You Need a Lawyer to Expunge a Criminal Record?

— June 9, 2021

Expunging your criminal record can help restore certain rights and privileges you were previously denied.

Criminal records can follow you for years, possibly the rest of your life. Many people believe that criminal records are permanent and can never be wiped clean. However, this is not always the case, and some criminal records may be expunged. Think of expungement as erasing a conviction from your criminal history. An expunged conviction will be treated as if it never happened.

Expungements can greatly benefit individuals convicted of crimes who are being held back because of their past. However, the expungement process is not always easy. As with any legal proceeding, expungements are probably a bit beyond the grasp of an ordinary person. An attorney is needed to help a person through their expungement process and come out the other side with a cleaner criminal record.

If you were convicted of a crime in the past and want to know if you can have your criminal record expunged, you should contact a lawyer. An experienced lawyer can help you determine if you are eligible for an expungement and guide you through the legal hoops to get your record expunged.

How a Lawyer Can Help with Criminal Expungements

Expungement procedures often vary from state to state. The first thing an attorney can help you with is finding the expungement statutes that apply to you. Expungements do not happen automatically, and proper procedures must be followed before an expungement is granted.

Once an attorney has located the appropriate expungements statutes, they can help you determine if you are even eligible. In many states, some but not all offenses may be eligible for expungement. In general, more serious offenses like murder are usually not eligible. However, lesser non-violent offenses are more likely to be eligible for expungement. An attorney can review your case and figure out if you are even eligible for an expungement in the first place.

Courts may have somewhat broad discretion when it comes to expungements. You may fill out all the forms and jump through all the hoops, but a judge could still deny your expungement at the end of the day. This level of discretion may be different in different states. Judges often consider factors like the severity of the underlying conviction, your overall criminal history, your performance on probation, and your remorse for your crimes. If a judge is hesitant to grant your expungement, a lawyer can effectively advocate for you and work to convince a judge that you deserve to have your record expunged.

Additionally, certain burdens and responsibilities of the expungement process may fall on your shoulders. Depending on what state you are in, you may have to notify certain government agencies that hold copies of your criminal record of your expungement. A lawyer can help you identify these agencies and serve them proper notice.

Why Someone Would Need a Criminal Record Expunged

Criminal records can carry consequences beyond the completion of a prison or probation term. In some states, people convicted of certain crimes may not vote, own a firearm, or work specific jobs. In many cases, the stigma of a criminal record is enough to cost people work and housing opportunities.

Once these convictions are expunged from your criminal record, you will no longer be bound by their consequences. If your criminal conviction prevented you from voting in certain elections or owning a firearm, you would no longer be prevented from exercising those rights.

You will also no longer have to inform certain people about your criminal past. Potential employers or landlords may ask questions about any previous convictions. The stigma of a criminal conviction can be very powerful, and many people lose out on jobs and housing because of it. Once your record is expunged, you do not have to report your criminal record to anyone.

Man on a job interview; image courtesy of Amtec Staffing, via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0, no changes.
Man on a job interview; image courtesy of Amtec Staffing, via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0, no changes.

Attorneys are so crucial to the expungement process because there is so much at stake. If a person is granted an expungement, they may be permitted to exercise rights and privileges they were previously barred from. Without a criminal record holding you back, you could get that new job that helps you turn your life around. You should absolutely speak with an attorney before beginning the expungement process.

Eligibility for Expunging a Criminal Record

Eligibility requirements will vary from state to state. You must speak to an attorney who has experience with expungements in your state as the rules may not be the same everywhere. In general, a person may be eligible for expungement only if they have completed their sentence. A person who has yet to complete their sentence, or whose charges are still pending, may not be eligible.

There may be other criteria, such as the type of conviction that you wish to have expunged. Convictions for non-violent crimes may be easier to expunge. However, violent felonies may be more difficult. In some states, certain violent felonies, like murder, may be barred entirely from expungement. You must speak with an attorney in your state to determine whether your criminal record can be expunged.

The eligibility criteria for expungement can likely be found in your state’s criminal statutes. A Long Beach criminal defense lawyer can help you find the relevant law, identify the eligibility criteria, and determine if you are indeed eligible for an expungement of your criminal record.

The Importance of Attorneys During the Expungement Process

The process of getting your criminal record expunged is not simple. You may be able to have some convictions expunged, but not others. The eligibility criteria for expungement will be different depending on the state in which you were convicted. An experienced Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer can help you find the relevant law and begin your expungement.

Attorneys are so essential to have for your expungement because you have a better chance of success. Expunging your criminal record can help restore certain rights and privileges you were previously denied. An attorney is necessary not only to help you navigate the legal process, but to get legal rights returned to you.

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