A recent study suggests that over 300 million Americans have criminal records, whether misdemeanor or felony convictions.  Criminal charges can result in heavy fines, court costs, and even jail time.  But, the consequences of a criminal conviction are not just limited to fines, costs and potential jail or prison time.  Even after paying their debt to society, millions of Americans continue to live with the ongoing consequences of a criminal record, even if their convictions are decades old.

For many people a past criminal conviction is an obstacle preventing them from seizing a good job opportunity, pursuing higher-education, and even securing stable housing arrangements for themselves and their families.  Employers, educational institutions, and landlords often conduct background searches on applicants to determine whether they are appropriate candidates for employment, housing or continued education.

Fortunately, many people with a criminal history may be eligible to have certain offenses expunged from their record or sealed.  Expunging a criminal charge means that particular charge is erased from your record.  Sealing of a criminal charge means that the charge still exists but it is hidden from the public.  Once a charge or arrest record is sealed, the public does not have access to the record of that particular arrest or charge.

Expungement applies to offenses or charges that did not result in a conviction.  For example, arrests that did not result in formal charges, dismissal of charges, acquittals, and cases where court supervision is offered and successfully completed can be expunged.  If an expungement is granted, then the records of that charge or offense are impounded and destroyed by law enforcement.
Sealing of records is an option for arrests or charges that resulted in a conviction.  Luckily most felony and misdemeanor convictions can be sealed after 3 years has passed since your sentence was completed.  If you successfully petition the court to seal a record, then that record is removed from public view with some exceptions for law enforcement and employers that are required by law to do fingerprint background checks on job applicants.
However, there are certain offenses that can never be expunged or sealed.  Minor traffic offenses, crimes against animals, sex crimes, DUI and reckless driving, and domestic violence crimes can never be expunged or sealed even if court supervision was offered as part of the sentence.

If you have any questions recording criminal records and whether you qualify to have your records sealed or expunged, call our office at (309)-662-5084.