Thursday, September 20, 2012

Arrested Development, Part 3: Can you erase your criminal record?

EXPUNGE is when the criminal record is destroyed. If the Court grants a Petition to Expunge, the State Attorney's file, the arresting agency's reports and files, the Clerk of Court's records, and the jail records should be destroyed.  Additionally, a petitioner's photograph is removed from the jail's internet website and all information is removed from the Clerk of Court's website.

A person is eligible to have a criminal record expunged ONLY in the following circumstances:    
  • Applicant was arrested but never formally charged by the State Attorney's Office.
  • Applicant was arrested and formally charged, but the charge was later dismissed or "nolle prossed" (dropped) in Court.
  • Applicant was arrested, charged, but entered into and successfully completed a pre-trial diversion program (i.e. PTI, MIP, or DVI), which ultimately resulted in the case being dismissed by the Court.
  • In all of the above three scenarios, the applicant MUST have no other Adjudications of Guilt (convictions) on their record.  (For example, 25 years ago John was convicted of a misdemeanor DUI.  Since then he has had no run-ins with the Police.  But, John is arrested today for grand theft.  Tomorrow, the police release John saying they made a mistake and no grand theft charges are filed against John.   Unfortunately, John would NOT be allowed to get this grand theft arrest expunged because of his prior misdemeanor DUI conviction from 25 years ago.)   

A record which is SEALED by the Court is not destroyed but placed in an envelope and sealed shut. The envelope cannot be legally opened without a Court order. If a record is sealed, a petitioner's photograph is removed from the jail's internet website. The Clerk of Court's file is also sealed and all information about the case is removed from the Clerk of Court's website.  

A person is eligible to apply for a sealing ONLY in the following circumstances:
  • Petitioner was arrested, formally charged, pled guilty or no contest to the charge and was sentenced to a WITHHOLD OF ADJUDICATION OF GUILT by the Court.
  • If the Petitioner receives a Withhold of Adjudication and is sentenced to probation by the Court - and successfully completes the probation, the petitioner may seek to have that record SEALED.
  • There are certain offenses that are never allowed to be sealed, even if the applicant received a withhold of adjudication. Some of these offenses include, but not limited to, sexual offenses, offenses against children, other violent offenses, and drug trafficking charges.
  • As noted above, if you have ever been convicted, you are not eligible to have any case sealed or expunged.  
With both the Expunge and Seal petition process, there are other reasons why you may not be eligible or why your Petition may be denied.  Additionally, you can only have a Petition to Seal or Petition to Expunge granted once per lifetime and you can only choose one date of offense to have sealed or expunged. 

(Click on  or our website for more detailed information). 

As you can see, the eligibility requirements and the petition process can be very intricate and confusing.  You may wish to consult an attorney to help determine whether you are eligible to have your record sealed or expunged.  Afterwards, you may choose to Petition to Seal or Expunge your record on your own.  However, the process can be very time consuming, confusing, and stressful.  I
have helped many clients to first, determine their eligibility; second, file the petition with the correct supporting paperwork; and finally, I explain exactly what they can and cannot say about their criminal record.  As your attorney, I have handled scores of petitions to seal or expunge which makes the process stress-free for my clients.   

I would be happy to discuss with you whether you are eligible to apply for a Petition to Seal or a Petition to Expunge and if eligible to help you through the Petition process.