How To Get Your Criminal Record Cleaned Up

criminal record

A criminal record makes life tough – there’s no way around it. From employment and personal relationships to applying for loans and scholarships, having charges and convictions on your record forces you to climb uphill.

But what if there were a way to clean your record up?

Criminal Record Expungement vs. Sealing

A criminal record can follow you for the rest of your life under normal circumstances. It’s going to come up in every background check, and anyone who cares to make searches related to your history is going to discover the charges you faced.

But there are some options that allow you to cleanse your former record and move on.

According to attorney Rowdy G. Williams: “Just because you were convicted of a crime, say, 10 years ago, doesn’t mean it still has to haunt you in every job interview or lease application. As long as you have an attorney who understands expungement laws in your state, you can fight for your record to be erased – or at least sealed.”

Through the process of expungement, you can erase your criminal record, or at least some aspects of your criminal record. There are a few steps you’ll need to follow, but if you’re successful, it will be as if you never got convicted of that crime in the first place. Your record can be completely wiped clean and you can start fresh.

An alternative to expungement is sealing. There are some circumstances in which expungement isn’t acceptable. Certain types of crimes and certain laws in certain states can prohibit you from fully expunging your record. However, you may still be able to seal your criminal record. This essentially means that your criminal record won’t be available through public searches and databases, though it can still be accessed through the legal system.

How do you pursue expungement and/or record sealing?

Hire an Attorney

The first step of the process is to hire an attorney. Unfortunately, expungement and record sealing can be extremely challenging to understand, in part because the laws vary from state to state and in part because the process isn’t always straightforward. An experienced attorney should be able to help you understand what this process is like and guide you through the various steps of that process. They can also represent you if necessary and maximize your chances of getting your record cleaned.

Determine Your Eligibility

Together with your attorney, you’ll determine your eligibility for expungement, as most people would prefer expungement to simple sealing.

The laws dictating expungement eligibility vary considerably from area to area, but these are some of the top considerations you’ll typically need to bear in mind:

  • Number of offenses. How many prior criminal offenses do you have? People with fewer offenses have a higher likelihood of getting their records expunged. People with a long, complicated criminal history are unlikely to receive expungement.
  • Nature of the offense. Certain types of crimes are not eligible for expungement. Federal crimes, violent crimes, sexual offenses, DUIs, and fraud are common examples. In general, the lower the severity of the crime, the more likely you are to have it expunged.
  • Length of time since the offense. Length of time since the offense also matters. If you’ve gone 30 years without committing another crime, judges will be much more likely to expunge your previous record. If your offense was committed as a juvenile, expungement is also likely.
  • Sentence service. Have you served out your sentence entirely? If you paid your fine or did your time, you’ll be more likely to have your record expunged.

File a Petition

If you find yourself eligible, you can file a petition. This typically involves filling out some paperwork and securing various documents, which your lawyer can help you with. There may also be a fee associated with this, but it’s usually not more than a few hundred dollars. It shouldn’t take long to get this process moving, though it may take some time for your paperwork to be reviewed and approved through the appropriate legal channels.

Appear for the Court Hearing

Depending on where you live, the nature of your offense, and a few other factors, you may or may not have to attend a court hearing. During this hearing, the judge will review your offense and your paperwork and make a determination for whether your record can be expunged or sealed. Your lawyer will be with you for this step of the process.

Hopefully, you’ll be successful, and your criminal record can be expunged or sealed.

Clean Up Your Online Presence

Even if you are successful, it’s important to remember that details about your offense and conviction may still be available online via public databases, news stories, and social media. It’s a good idea to work with an online reputation management service if you want your online presence to be cleansed as well.

If we want to preserve justice, we need to hold people accountable for the criminal acts they commit. But we also need to give people with a criminal history a path to redemption and a way to start over. Through the processes of criminal record expungement and sealing, countless people with prior convictions get opportunities for a fresh start – and if you’re willing to hire and work with a good lawyer, you can as well.

Photo by RDNE Stock project on Pexels



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