Expungement: I Don’t Think It Means What You Think It Means

inigo 2Expungement is a funny thing. In the words of Inigo Montoya, “You keep using that word; I do not think it means what you think it means.” Expungement does not mean that the court clerk takes your file out to a bonfire and poof, it’s gone forever. It does mean that the expunged record is sealed from general public view and treated as (somewhat) confidential.

This can have some major benefits. For the most part, employers who run a background check on you won’t be able to see the expunged charge. The same goes for landlords or other people in the general public. There are a few exceptions to this rule, however. Judges, prosecutors and police officers will still be able to see your full record, as well as certain types of employers like teachers, daycare workers and certain employers in the medical profession.

How do you know if you’re eligible for expungement? It’s not always easy to tell. The general rule of thumb for misdemeanors is that you can petition to have your record expunged 60 days after successful completion of your probation as long as you’ve paid all fines and costs associated with your sentence. For felonies, you generally have to wait 5 years plus 60 days after the same. And if you pleaded not guilty and won, or your charge was dismissed, then you have to wait 1 year after acquittal or dismissal to petition for expungement.

As with most things in the law, there are exceptions to these rules. For example, if your misdemeanor was a DWI, Negligent Homicide, Battery 3rd Degree, Indecent Exposure, Public Sexual Indecency, Sexual Assault 4th Degree or Domestic Battery 3rd Degree, then you have to wait 5 years instead of 60 days. And there are certain felonies that cannot be expunged, like a Class Y Felony, Class A or B non-drug related felony, violent felony, sexual felony, or unclassified felony with more than 10 years maximum sentence. For those, you have to ask the Governor to pardon you.

How do you get your record expunged? The first step is to get the Sentencing Order for the specific charge you’re asking to be sealed. You may also need an ACIC background check to make sure that you have all of the required information. Next, you will fill out a Petition to Seal and a proposed Order to Seal that you will give to the judge of the court where you were sentenced, along with a $50 filing fee. You will also need to give a copy to the prosecuting attorney in that district, because they will have 30 days to object to the expungement. It can take anywhere from 30, 60 or 90 days, depending on the judge, to get the Petition granted and the Order returned.

Getting an expungement is a low-cost legal service that can make a big difference in your life. An attorney can draft and submit the proper paperwork for you and make sure that your expungement happens on time. Contact Leslie Copeland today for a free consultation about your expungment.


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