What is Expungement?
Expungement is the process by which an individual petitions the court for the “sealing” of their previous criminal record. This occurs most often in the case of juveniles who have been convicted of non-violent misdemeanors. The policy behind expungement is to give an individual a “second chance” without having the public scrutinize the person for acts that he, or she, may have committed when they were under 18.
There are differences between getting a criminal conviction “sealed” and getting it “expunged.” When you get a criminal conviction “sealed” that means that it is shielded from the public view and cannot be seen by potential employers, educational institutions, banking or credit institution. However, your criminal record will still exist for purposes of future criminal action. If you are applying for a professional license or are involved in subsequent criminal proceedings a “sealed” criminal conviction may be viewed by the appropriate governmental body.
An expungement is when a criminal conviction is completely erased from your criminal record. This means, not only will private institutions be incapable of accessing those records, but governmental institutions will not be able to access them. Expungement literally deletes the former criminal infraction from the public record.
Why do I need an Expungement Lawyer?
The laws concerning expungement are different in every state and county in the Union. An expungement lawyer will be knowledgeable of the laws and procedures that these states require in getting a criminal conviction expunged or sealed.
You may not need an expungement lawyer to get a criminal conviction expunged or sealed. The matter involves mostly paperwork. You will need to file an application with the court to have your criminal record expunged and pay a small fee somewhere around $100. Some states and/or judges will often require you to deliver notice of the expungement proceedings to the district attorneys and some even require you to complete the “order of expungement” yourself with the only requirement for the judge to be approval and signature.
The decision on whether or not to hire an expungement lawyer rests on a number of factors. If you committed the crime while you were a juvenile it is often mandatory that the criminal infraction be sealed. However, when your criminal violation as a juvenile was serious you may need an expungement lawyer to help in arguing for the expungement.
Expungement lawyers will be necessary when the crime involves a felony. Some crimes are not able to be expunged at all. Depending on the laws of your jurisdiction, expungement will not be available for serious felonies, sex crimes, cases where you have had a previous expungement, and when you have a past criminal record. An expungement lawyer will be able to help you when the crime is a misdemeanor, there has been an acquittal, reversal on appeal, and where there has been an arrest but not a conviction.
An expungement lawyer is the best equipped to handle your expungement issue. The decision to expunge a record is often solely in the hands of the judge and the prosecutor. Expungement lawyers are in the best position to argue for your expungement and convince the court that you are a model member of society, despite your past infractions.
Criminal records are a serious matter. They can affect your ability to get a job, keep a job, get a loan, and get admittance into college When you get an expungement or sealing of your criminal record you are legally allowed to say that the criminal infraction never happened. An expungement lawyer will make sure that your criminal infraction, whether as an adult or a juvenile, will not destroy future opportunities for you in your employment or education.
Even if you do not retain an expungement lawyer to help craft your application and argue for you in an initial expungement proceeding you should definitely retain expungement lawyers if your application is denied. When an expungement application is denied the applicant will have 3-6 months, depending on the jurisdiction, to appeal the denial of the order. You should take full advantage of the appeals opportunity and hire an expungement lawyer to make sure that you can make the best case for why your expungement should be granted.
Experience & Qualifications
When looking for expungement lawyers in your area you want to make sure they meet certain qualifications before you agree to retain their services. The most important factor is whether they have graduated from an accredited law school in the United States and are in good standing with the state’s bar association. The second thing you will want to look for how familiar they are with the expungement laws, not only in your state, but the procedures in that specific court. Many prosecutors require more information, and have higher standards, for expungement applications than those required by the state law. Your expungement lawyer should be somewhat familiar with the judges and prosecutors that will be involved in your expungement proceeding.
An expungement lawyer should also have exceptional experience with negotiation skills. Preferably your expungement lawye should have a specialized certificate in mediation, arbitration or some other form of alternate dispute resolution. Often times the decision on whether or not to grant an expungement will rest on the ability of expungement lawyers to convince the judge and the prosecutor that it should be granted. You want an expungement lawyer who has the ability to convince the parties involved that the detriment to you, if expungement is not granted, will greatly outweigh any benefit to society by having your criminal record be part of the public record.
Rates & Fees
The rates involved with an expungement lawyer vary depending on the experience of the expungement lawyer and the complexity of your case. If you’re criminal conviction occurred when you were a juvenile then the cost of an expungement lawyer will be less expensive than if your criminal conviction occurred when you were an adult or if it involved a serious felony.
Expungement lawyers will often charge a flat fee of $300 to $750 dollars to help you with your expungement proceedings. If the case goes to appeal and the expungement lawyer is required to litigate on your behalf then he may charge an hourly fee for that time over and above the services incorporated in the flat fee.
An expungement lawyer is an attorney, barred in the state, who individuals hire to get criminal violations removed from their record. An expungement proceeding can be done on one’s own but its often a good idea to hire an expungement lawyer to simplify the process. Having a criminal record can cause you to be refused admission into Universities and be turned down for job opportunities. An expungement lawyer will be able to help you get a second chance by petitioning the court