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What is an expungement and will it work for me?

In our last post, we discussed how being unable to get out of jail may affect how people plead to crimes, even if there is a good chance that they would be found not guilty at trial. Essentially, the need to get out of jail may lead people to plea to lesser crimes, without knowing the future consequences of pleading guilty.

One of the things a defendant may miss is the ability of getting the crime expunged after their probation has expired.

For the uninitiated, an expungement is the legal process in which one’s criminal record is sealed (or erased) from public view. Also known as an expunction, this does not completely clear a criminal record, as law enforcement agencies and prosecutors may still have access to the file. Nevertheless, employers, rental agencies and financial institutions may not. An expungement may be helpful in preventing employers from making decisions based on policies prohibiting felons from being employed by a company. The same could apply when a person seeks to rent an apartment or condo.

There are a number of questions that must be answered before considering an expungement. The primary inquiries include how many years have passed since the conviction, whether the crime is actually eligble for expungement, and whether the person has had any other convictions before asking for an expungement.

The process can be a difficult one, even if you are eligible for one by statute; so it is worth talking to an experienced criminal defense attorney about the possibility before taking any plea deal.

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