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How Do You Expunge Or Seal A Criminal Record?

Tagged under: Resources USA Court System Expeal
By Omid Ghaffari-Tabrizi on November 24, 2015.

Omid Ghaffari-Tabrizi created Expeal's map of what are the various terms used in various states for the procedure to erase criminal records.

As we've discussed before, life after an arrest creates a large number of issues. Any interaction with law enforcement results in a record. Depending on your state, the severity of that record can be the difference between a future of total opportunity and one of limited possibilities. Regardless of whether you are applying for housing, a scholarship, or a job, one question will almost always be asked about your record. Sometimes it is whether or not you have been arrested, other times whether or not you have been convicted. No matter the answer, depending on what your state divulges when someone asks for your background check, there will potentially be issues. That is where Expeal steps in. We give you what you need in order to get the arrest or conviction expunged, sealed, set aside, restricted, pardoned, or whatever else it is that your state calls the process.

What Is Expeal?

Every state calls it something different. There are several ways in which the process of dealing with your criminal record are referred to in different states. They include: set aside, seal, seal and destroy, dismiss, reduction, provisional pardon, mandatory expunge, discretionary expunge, first-time offender expunge, pardon, return, annul, and vacate. Even if a state uses the same term, it doesn't mean that the end result is the same. For example, in some states, getting your record expunged means the files are physically destroyed with no mention of it to be found anywhere, while in others, a record can be reopened if you get into trouble after the case was expunged. We have put together, in one place, all the questions that need to be answered that will help determine if you can honestly answer “No” to questions about your criminal history.

How Do I Qualify?

Once again, we come across a situation where some states give out clear and concise road maps that help determine if you qualify and others require you to read through their statutes and determine on your own whether you qualify or not. With Expeal, for the first time ever, attorneys have gone through the statutes in every state, reviewed the documents provided, and put together qualification forms that anyone can use to figure out if they are eligible to have their criminal erased. There are a number of general factors that help determine if you qualify:

  • Whether you were convicted or not. Some states allow you to expunge or seal a conviction while others do not. For instance, under some circumstances, you can seal a conviction in Illinois, but you never can in Florida.
  • The type of offense. Depending on what type of crime you committed, your state may or may not allow you to Expeal your record. For instance, under some circumstances, you can expunge a DUI in Tennessee, but you never can in Texas.
  • When you can file. Time is also a factor that needs to be considered. There are very few circumstances in which you can file for relief before your case is closed in any state. In some states, you can file as soon as your case is over, but in other states, you have to wait a certain amount of time. For instance, under some circumstances, you can ask to expunge a felony after 15 years in Louisiana, but you only have to wait for 5 years to ask for a pardon in Connecticut.

Omid Ghaffari-Tabrizi found this image of file folders marked CONFIDENTIAL.

Do I Need An Attorney?

You shouldn't need an attorney. No matter how hard a state makes it to figure out whether you qualify, once you figure out you do actually qualify, the process should be straightforward. Certain requirements are written out in the statutes, and you if you meet them, you should not have any issue. Some states allow you to do everything by mail while others require you to show up for a hearing. Even if you have to go in front of a board or a judge, you should feel confident that you hit every requirement the law requires to get the second chance you earned when you did your time. Sometimes attorneys can help, we understand not everyone wants to risk making a mistake, so make sure you find one that is honest and capable. We're happy to help you find one if you want.

How Do I Obtain A Certificate Of Actual Innocence?

As we mentioned, even an arrest can lead to a criminal history. Some states automatically expunge cases in which you have been found not guilty or were never brought to trial. Others require for you to apply for a form of expunging or sealing your record. Others give you a “Certificate of Actual Innocence”. This means that not only is your record expunged, but you have an official document from a judge or the Board of Pardons (depending on your state) saying you had absolutely nothing to do with the charges.

Do Marijuana and Drug Charges Qualify?

As states begin to legalize recreational marijuana and state-level legislation similar to the Fair Sentencing Act begin to gather steam, more and more charges have begun to become open to the Expeal process. Furthermore, many states have special programs established for non-violent drug offenders, especially first-time offenders, allowing them to Expeal these records when they wouldn't otherwise qualify. Finding out if your state is one of those is simple enough with our form or by looking at your state's statutes.

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