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If a conviction is impeding progress, this is what you do

The background check is the modus operandi for unearthing criminal conviction when people move applications for job vacancies and tenancy with prospective employers and landlords. Past convictions often stand in the way of reintegrating convicted persons into the mainstream of society. This leaves unanswered the larger question, what does a convicted criminal do to safeguard his legitimate interests once the conviction charge is over and done with?

You can move a petition for expunging or sealing criminal records

This is a viable option for many people struggling in the wake of criminal charges that are hampering their job prospects and promotions. A few states allow expunging of records relating to the crime in exceptional circumstances and some others may ultimately erase or destroy the records all together. Wherever you may be, the state will have definitive procedures for allowing such petitions and for deciding issues on merit. They may ultimately expunge an arrest record and crime convictions where it is permitted under law. In most cases the erasure of records will be limited to the jurisdiction where the crime was committed.

Which crimes allow expungement proceedings?

The law differs from state to state regarding the crimes that are covered by expungement proceedings. It could be that the person convicted of a crime might find it easier to expunge state records in one jurisdiction but face an uphill task in another state that bars expungement. Generally speaking, it is a lot easier to expunge minor misdemeanors. The same cannot be said of serious crimes that graduate to felony charges. In a few states the court permits expungement only if a criminal record is mistakenly created or when the accused suffered an identity theft. The more serious offenses such as drug abuse or trafficking and distribution of banned substances, and violent crimes such as kidnapping, murder and rape and even DWI are excluded from the purview of expungement.

States may also take the view that a first offense (if minor) could be expunged but the same does not apply to subsequent or repeat offenses or the accused had undergone a prolonged rehabilitation program prior to the repeat offense. In some states it is mandatory for the criminal convict to wait for a stipulated time period in order to apply for expungement. In the intervening period the state will take cognizance of fresh offenses or antisocial behavior. In some instances the state might stipulate that a criminally convicted person should not have any fresh records of crimes committed following the first offense to ensure that the person has evidenced his reintegration into society. As may be observed, expungement or sealing of records is not an easy task and a clean record following the first offense is a must to get court approval.

Factors that are considered before allowing expungement of records

• The seriousness of the crime. Minor misdemeanors (not subsequently repeated) are usually permitted to be expunged.
• A lengthier timespan following the first offense (and hopefully only offense) is a plus point from the viewpoint of the judge.
• Whether the person has fulfilled the obligations listed in the court judgment or has he, at any time, violated court orders.
• Whether the person has been convicted for any other offense, minor or serious, since the first conviction.

The procedures involved in moving expungement proceedings

The first item on the agenda as far as the criminal convict is concerned is to move an application for allowing expungement of records, through the services of a competent attorney, and after paying the prescribed fee. The application must enclose a certified copy of the court judgment delivered in the original offense. The application must make it very clear that all the terms stipulated by the judge have been complied with in totality.

Potential information that will be useful to the proceedings:

• The date when conviction was confirmed by the court.
• The jurisdiction where the judgment was recorded.
• The exact date when sentencing was completed.
• The details of the charge that was admitted in court for the offense.

Any application for moving an expungement petition cannot be deemed as a fundamental right. An experienced criminal defense lawyer will be the best judge whether your case satisfies the state’s laws and guidelines for applying for expungement/ erasure of records. The judge will then decide whether or not expungement or sealing of records is justified.

It is also possible that the prosecution might challenge the expungement application, and that could necessitate a hearing. Basically, the judge will decide whether the petitioner’s safety and security or career concerns concerns are compelling enough to override public’s right of access to court records.

What you should know regarding pardons

Seeking a pardon for a committed offense is not the same as getting one’s criminal record permanently expunged or erased from public records. The pardon is an acknowledgment (usually by the state’s Governor) that a crime was committed and that the individual responsible for the act was formally forgiven. This may at the most provide a modicum of emotional relief to the criminal convict and rest his agitated conscience, and he once again feels welcomed as an integral part of society, but the criminal record might still be retained in court records.

The main thrust of expungement is to effectively remove criminal records from public view and help a person applying jobs and carry on with his life undeterred by a past offense or its punitive aftermath. But it must be born in mind that the details of the case will still be available to the law enforcement authorities whenever they need information in crime detection.

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