http://www.dreamstime.com/-image15669488Being convicted of a criminal offense will change your life. It could affect your standard of living, your reputation, your career, your relationship with your family and friends, and you Constitutional rights.  A criminal record will make it tougher for you find a job, pass a back ground check, own a firearm, or obtain security clearances. Once the criminal conviction is on your record, it’s very difficult to get it off. However, depending on the circumstances of your case, the charges against you and the jurisdiction you are in, it might be possible to get the criminal conviction expunged from your record, with the help and advice of a criminal defense lawyer.

What is expungement?

An expungement is the removal of a specific criminal conviction from your criminal record. Practically speaking, your criminal conviction on your record will not magically disappear, but if an expungement is granted, the expunged conviction is considered not to have occurred in the eyes of the law. The process of requesting and obtaining an expungement varies from state to state. Not everyone is allowed to petition the court for an expungement, and not all criminal convictions may be eligible for expungement. You should consult a local criminal defense attorney to discuss the expungement process that is specific to your case and jurisdiction.

The expungement process

For the regular person, the expungement process can be confusing and daunting. If you qualify for an expungement, you do not want to mess up on your request as it would be difficult to re-apply. Thus extra care must be exercised when you are considering using a criminal defense lawyer to handle the process. You will need to provide the attorney with the details of your arrest, the charges brought against you and the disposition or result of your case. You will also need to supply specific information about your punishment. Once the criminal defense attorney has gathered all of the required information, then he will complete and file the proper paperwork in the right court and a hearing will be set to make a decision on your request. If you are handling the expungement on your own, make sure you serve copies of your paperwork to the right parties and obtain the right proof of service. The service procedures will be different from state to state so make sure that you go on to your state’s court website and look up the proper procedures.

If you do all the paperwork right and serve the right parties, you will show up at your hearing to make your request in person and answer any questions the court may have to determine your request. You may be challenged by a number of people who object to your expungement, such as law enforcement officers, the victims and/or their families and correction officers.

If things go in your favor, the court will grant your request and issue an Expungement Order. Once the order is granted, you need to send the order to a number of different people to ensure that your records are properly updated. This may include the local police, your employer, and the public record keeper in your location.

Once your conviction has been expunged, you no longer have to disclose the conviction on job applications, college applications and other materials asking for your record. Your expunged record is not accessible to the public or employers unless a court order is issued to unseal your record. However, there are some instances which you may still need to disclose your expunged conviction.  For example, if you wish to apply to a state bar for the practice of law.