Felony Expungement & Record Sealing: Everything you need to know
Being a convicted felon or ex-offender is a label that most will have to live with for the rest of their lives, or so you may think. We all know the difficulty first hand that faces felons when finding a job, renting an apartment or applying for a loan. Wouldn’t it be nice if paying your debt to society was enough without having to have a criminal record follow? Well there is a solution for some felons, felony expungement and/or felony record sealing.
What is felony expungement and record sealing?
Depending on the state that you live in you may have the option to have your criminal record expunged or sealed. In the end it really does not matter if your felony is either expunged or sealed. The only notable advantage to an expungement is that it opens the door to certain government jobs. Our organization, Help For Felons, highly suggests that you contact a lawyer start the process rather than trying to do it yourself.
When a Misdemeanor or felony conviction is expunged it is literally wiped from from existence and does not exist anymore. You will be able to legally state that you have never been convicted of any crime and nobody will ever know that you were ever convicted of anything.
When a record is sealed it will not be accessible to most people or entities. Depending on the state that you live in it may be possible for law enforcement officers to see your sealed record, judges or other government personnel. The great thing though is that your sealed record will not show up during a employment background check, apartment/housing rental checks and other non government investigations.
In addition to the general public not being able to access or see that you have had a felony conviction you can legally claim or state that you do not have a criminal background or have ever been convicted of a felony or misdemeanor. The record will always exist but would have to be unsealed by a judge in order to be seen by people in the private sector.
Not all convictions can be expunged
Generally speaking most felony convictions that are considered a sex crime will not be eligible to be expunged. Multiple felony convictions will also cause issues when trying to have your record expunged.
States that allow felony expungement and record sealing
The twenty states listed below have some for of misdemeanor or felony expungement.
Most other states have some form of record sealing but is very depended on the type of crime committed, how the crime was prosecuted and the time that has passed since conviction.
Who can have a misdemeanor or felony expunged or sealed?
Most first time offenders can have a felony expunged or sealed but your chances of this happening are much greater or will happen if you have:
- Completed all court orders including but not limited to; prison sentence, probation, fines or reparations.
- You’re not a repeat offender.
- Have not been arrested or convicted since your release from prison and/or probation.
- Your original conviction was non violent or a sex crime although this varies by state.
- You have furthered yourself through education and/or working.
- Time passed since conviction.
Judges want to see you doing everything possible to further yourself while staying clean and out of trouble. Many felons can get a us vs. them mentality which will do you no good although many people can relate to it. Remember judges have to make a decisions based off of facts presented to them and can not act on what they feel in their heart. This is why it is so important to stay out of trouble and to further yourself in the best ways possible. As we always say here at Help For Felons attitude is 90% of the battle!
How does the felony expungement process work and what are the steps that follow?
This is not meant to be legal advice but more of an overview of how the expungement process will work. It is very important that you have a good lawyer with experience in expunging and sealing records. We all know that lawyers are expensive but this is something you want done right the first time.
- The first step is to make sure that you are eligible to have your felony or misdemeanor conviction expunged. Each of the 50 states have their own laws and procedures on how this is determined. Remember that staying out of trouble will give you the best chance at being eligible.
- After you are determined to be eligible you will then submit a petition to the appropriate court. The petition is simply a legal statement telling the court that you want to have your record expunged or sealed. It is very important that the petition be 100% accurate and correct to avoid issues and delays.
- After the court files your paperwork a hearing will be scheduled and you will be then notified of the time and date of the hearing. Not every state will require a hearing but the majority do.
- The decision will solely be made by the judge as to whether your record will be expunged/sealed or not. Your attorney will present the reasons why your criminal record should be cleared and what steps you have taken to turn your life around.
Tips for a successful expungement or sealing
- Make sure you have a good if not excellent attorney with expungement experience.
- Heavily research expungement laws in your state and understand everything from top to bottom.
- Prepare yourself for a good or bad outcome and don’t loose hope if things don’t go your way
How long and what is the legal costs to have a felony or misdemeanor expunged?
Minor Misdemeanors – Sometimes these can be very easy to expunge and may not even require a hearing, your attorney will simply submit paperwork to the courts for you. The cost will normally range from $500 to $750 and can take up to six months.
Serious Misdemeanors – Sometimes these can be very easy to expunge and may not even require a hearing, your attorney will simply submit paperwork to the courts for you. The cost will normally range from $500 to $1000 and can take up to six months.
Felonies – Most often you will have to attend a court hearing with your attorney but not always and generally speaking your attorney will have to put in more hours so the cost can vary greatly from $1,000 to $5,000 and can take up to a full year for complicated cases. Remember that it is critical that you have a excellent attorney!
Are there other options to clear a criminal record?
Yes there are three other options available that can clear you felony conviction.
Certificate of Rehabilitation – This only for persons convicted in California. Please click here to read more.
Certificate of Innocence – If you are truly 100% innocent of the crime you were convicted then we highly suggest reading this information about a getting a certificate of innocence.
A Pardon – A pardon is normally granted by the Governor of the state you were convicted in. Here is more information on how to obtain a pardon if you have a federal conviction or click here for states information.