Understanding Expungement

Understanding criminal offenses, specifically those that are ‘first-time offenders’, is essential in determining whether or not you are eligible—or will be eligible in the future—to have your criminal record ‘expunged’ or ‘sealed’.

Until you first research and understand the caliber of your crime, it’s inadequate and improper at best to make speculations of, or try to understand your charge and how it impacts your future, total criminal record.

Moving forward, the terms expungement and sealing essential reflect the accessibility, dependent upon your state, the option to have a criminal-record “removed” officially from public-view, or “sealed” as to prevent, for the most part, anyone other than law enforcement the capability to see such prior offenses. It’s worth mentioning however, of course dependent upon the state, that some charges understandably cannot be ‘forgotten’ or expunged, such as a sexual or felony offense.

How a Criminal Record Affects You

May it be in the environment of prospective or current employment, all the way to potential apartments, and even private investigators or ‘security checks’, a criminal record or offenses history can critically impact, and negate such opportunities in a multitude of ways.
Therefore, naturally, individuals commonly seek possible remedy for removing such offenses, or having them ‘sealed’ as to prevent such instances from occurring.

Believe it or not, even your current employer, should they perform regular checks, or sporadically for any reason, is equally able to discover and determine recent or active criminal offenses, and in great detail. This is a very undesirable circumstance, as in some environments such as those including children, such a criminal charge, background, or history can lead to termination or rejection of employment.

Another worthwhile variable to consider is that the majority of law enforcement agencies, as well as government entities—including the government—and even some international agencies or NGO’s such as the United Nations, can still reveal and see prior charges and offenses, even if officially ‘expunged’ from your record—of course, dependent upon the nature of the crime or offense—as well as whether or not you were found guilty, etc.

Applying for Expungement or Record “Sealing”

Applying for record expungement, or having your criminal offense “sealed” is not necessarily a complicated task. In fact, determinant upon the gravity of the crime, often the DA or Public Defender (or Private Attorney) will mention such a possibility upon being charged, having charges dropped, or ‘brokering a deal’ with the state.

Should you not have experienced or been told the ladder, then it’s just as equally useful to lookup your states courts website, specifically the city or district you preside in, and research what and how expungements or ‘record-seals’ work and how they might work for you!

Most government documentation, including the application or other necessary documents are readily available via the internet and government sites, for free.

It’s worth noting however, that it is your responsibility to file the necessary documents for such a request, and likewise to pay any necessary court-oriented fees associated with the request itself, as well as any additional administrative fees involved with the actual process, denial or approval, and then again in most cases to the state or municipal city itself for the actual action to have it ‘expunged’ or removed from public-eye.

Lastly, whether or not a private attorney is necessary will strongly depend on what state you live in, as well as the nature of your crime. That is, as some states will voluntarily engage you in a program, for example via the state of Pennsylvania, such as the A.M.P program, also known as the accelerated-misdemeanor program, which indeed entails the expungement of a criminal record—typically reserved for first time or perhaps petty offenders—via after they have completed said necessary probation or other tasks such as community service. With regards to the A.M.P. program, no private attorney or defense is necessary.

These programs, in essence, are designed to minimize petty or first time-offenders presence in both the incarceration and courts systems—offering them a ‘second chance’ so to speak. Additionally, such programs should not be taken for granted, in fact first-time offenders are not always guaranteed such a ‘right’ or program.

In several instances, such a program has been denied or not even mentioned to certain first time offenders, as such individuals perhaps did not express or show any genuine remorse for the nature of their crimes, or perhaps showed—or even, foolishly, expressed a willingness do it again.

Quite frankly, in the situation of being before a judge, it’s most commonly recommended for perpetrators or the defendant to remain quiet, submissive, respectful, and of course professional towards the courts system and judge—that includes a professional appearance and demeanor as well.

When in doubt, contact your local DA and explore your options!