The Expungement Center is dedicated to helping Americans everywhere understand their rights about their public records. We publish helpful information about record sealing and record expungement for states where it is available.

A criminal record is able to create difficult downstream results whether you or your child was convicted or arrested, or possibly both. Take, as an example, landlords and employers who regularly inquire apartment seekers and job applicants whether or not they have ever been convicted of, or maybe even arrested for a criminal offense. Employers may not hire – and landlords may not rent to – people who must answer ‘yes’ to these types of questions. However, some good news if that, in some cases, you might qualify to get a conviction or arrest expunged from your record.

Expungement refers to the process of sealing conviction and arrest records. Basically every state has enacted laws of which let people expunge convictions and arrests from their records. Although the details can change from state to state, most states’ laws provide that when a conviction or an arrest has been expunged, it does not need to be disclosed, involving potential landlords or employers. Take, as an example, assume that Bob was convicted of petty theft and later on had the conviction expunged. This was Bob’s lone brush with the criminal justice system. If Bob applies for a job and the application asks, “Have you ever been convicted of a criminal offense?” Bob can answer honestly, “No”.

In a lot of jurisdictions, people that have been convicted or arrested for juvenile offenses and drug crimes might have an easier path to expungement.

Drug offenses: a lot of people arrested for drug crimes qualify for diversion programs. These types of programs basically provide for the expungement of felony records following the satisfactory completion of a program.

Juvenile offenses: Those who were convicted or arrested as a juvenile offender might have an easier time getting their public felony records sealed or expunged. Normally this is a choice when the person reaches the age of 18, and they have otherwise stayed out of trouble with the law.

Due to the fact that an expungement is able to provide a new beginning of sorts, one of the most crucial things you can do if you have been convicted or arrested is to investigate your jurisdiction’s expungement process and procedures. Begin by checking with your county’s criminal court, or maybe even the law enforcement agency of which dealt with your arrest. Particularly, ask the following questions about qualifications for your expungement and the process and procedures included:

When is someone qualified for an expungement? Take, as an example, expungement might be available only after someone has finished serving their sentences, including any term of probation. However, if there is a legitimate reason, a judge might shorten a period of probation in order to let expungement take place earlier.

Is a specific offense qualified for expungement? Take, as an example, a jurisdiction might only let expungement take place for misdemeanor convictions and arrests and not let felony convictions to be expunged.

What does the expungement process include? You do not necessarily need an attorney for expungement. A lot of courts have forms available, with titles along the lines of “Motion for Expungement.”

What are the results of expungement? Even if a conviction has been expunged, is it possible that it could still show up in some circumstances or in an instant background check or felony records search? Take, as an example, some licensing boards and police departments might be able to find out about job applicants’ expunged records.

The system of applying for an expungement or executive clemency varies quite a bit between jurisdictions. Generally, if your jurisdiction has a more generous expungement law, your first recourse should most likely be under that law. If your jurisdiction has a restrictive expungement law, or if you do not meet the qualifications, you might consider applying for a pardon as an alternative.

Expungement is not the only option available to those who want to clear their criminal records. Many jurisdictions have systems in which people are able to apply for pardons. Whilst an expungement is normally given by the court where the person was convicted of a crime, a pardon is an executive action of which is able to either partially or fully lift the effects of the conviction. Yet another option is to seal a criminal record, though this normally happens only with juvenile records, and at times even then only if they stay out of trouble during their first few years of adulthood. In a few states, juvenile records are sealed instantly, whilst in others it is required to have a motion within a precise amount of years of being an adult so that you can have this record sealed. It is quite abnormal for the adult convictions to be sealed. Finally, it might be possible to bring a collateral attack on the conviction, to attempt to have the conviction set aside. Normally, this is a hard process, including a separate court action of which needs to be commenced within a limited period of time after the convict is entered.

As for U.S. federal convictions, pardons are given by the President. In states, pardons are given by the governor, with changing levels of influence and control over the pardon’s process to apply for clemency with the branch of the military in which given the conviction prior to applying for a pardon with the President. Normally, your pardon application will involve extensive personal info, your other criminal history if you have any, an explanation of the facts of the offense for which you want to be pardoned, an affidavits from people who know about your present good character, your residences, your rehabilitation, and financial and employment history. Normally, you must serve out your sentence in full, including any term of parole or probation, before you will be considered for a pardon.

The process for getting a criminal record changes depending on the jurisdiction in which the record is kept, and the reason for which you need the record. Take, as an example, if you are attempting to get a criminal background check of yourself, for reasons of security clearance, applying for a job, or a professional license, you will most likely require to have your fingerprints taken by a local police agency, then submit original copies of your fingerprints to the state, national police force where you live along with a fee, or provincial. The police agency will then check your personal info and fingerprints against know criminals. Then they will report back to the potential employer or licensing agency with either the expression that you do not have a criminal record, or a recitation of your felony public records. In the U.S., depending on the reason of the record check, you might need to separately ask for records checks from both the FBI and state police.