Your criminal history can be a lifelong burden you carry everywhere you go, even if you mend your ways and have no intention of being on the wrong side of the law ever again. Your credibility suffers, not just in the court but in everyday life as well. And the consequences can last for years and decades, impacting your education and job prospects in the future. What’s more, you may also face issues with some life-changing things like immigration and marriage as well. Naturally, not having a spotless criminal history can be a big problem for anyone. Fortunately, you have an opportunity to clear your record with criminal record expungement. However, there are several myths and misconceptions that shroud this process and keep people from going ahead with it. Debunking them is a great idea if you want to get started with clearing up your records and make life easier for yourself.
Myth #1: Getting records expunged means that they will not show up in the future checks
Public records change constantly based on the correction of errors, updates in case statuses, and expungements. The completeness of a file depends on how often public record information is reviewed and updated by the CRA. The concern here is that different agencies purchase the public records in bulk and do not update the ones they have on a regular basis. However, this shouldn’t dissuade you from expunging your record. There are different laws to protect you from the case being used against you by the potential employers or landlords. And most of them will probably rely only on Google for background checks because they wouldn’t want to risk getting sued under these laws.
Myth #2: Criminal records are permanent
You may believe that criminal records are going to stay with you for a lifetime but this is a major misconception that you should steer clear of. Typically, a criminal record is difficult to undo if a defendant pleads guilty in court or is found guilty by a jury. Moreover, it is to be noted that some criminal charges are not sealable or expugnable at all. Still, a majority of them are expugnable, such as the ones resolved in the following ways:
- Court charges are not filed
- The case is dismissed before trial
- Identity theft issue
- Felony court charges are not filed as part of a misdemeanor arrest
- Executive pardon
- Conviction is reversed in Court of Criminal Appeals
Apart from these circumstances, expungement may also work even if you plead guilty or are found guilty but don’t have a prior criminal record.
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Myth #3: Convictions only appear on criminal records
If you think that you need not worry about your records unless you are convicted, this may land you in trouble. While conviction only appears on criminal records for many states, it does not hold true everywhere. Technically, the record of dismissal will stay public till you ask the court to expunge. The best way out is to let criminal record expungement lawyers handle it for you. They will know the state-specific norms and ensure that your records are clear of arrests, pending charges, and dismissed charges. It is always good to be double sure and gave your record expunged if there is a doubt in the event of the case against you being dismissed.
Myth #4: The conviction falls off the record automatically if you stay clear
Another expungement myth is that criminal convictions fall off the record automatically if you stay clear of any wrongful activities for a long time span (maybe 5 or 10 years). However, these cases are not automatically sealed from your record just because sufficient time has lapsed without further criminal incidents. While the time limit may hold true under certain eligibility conditions, the process is not automatic. Even if a charge gets dismissed after the successful completion of probation period in a deferred sentence, the expungement process is still not necessarily automatic. You have to take the required legal action to get your records cleared up, no matter how long ago you were involved in a case.
Myth #5: Juvenile records are sealed automatically
You may think that juvenile records are sealed automatically once the defendant reaches the age of 18 or 21, but this is another misconception that needs to be cleared. The truth is that even these juvenile records are not sealed automatically just because the offender committed the offense at a young age. The process has to be followed as usual, but the comforting fact is that these records are frequently sealable or expugnable. Additionally, certain kinds of juvenile offenses, such as MIP (Minor in Possession of alcohol) and failure to attend school might be expugnable, regardless of the fact that the juvenile defendant pleaded guilty and received probation.
Myth #6: You need to admit expungement on employment applications
People seeking expungement may believe that the effort won’t do them any good because they still have to admit it on their employment applications in the future. However, this is not true in all the states. In Oklahoma, for example, you need not disclose the conviction to the potential employers once your record has been expunged. In fact, you may even deem that the conviction never happened in the first place. Simply speaking, you can legally state that it never occurred because no such record exists.
Now that these myths and misconceptions about criminal expungement are debunked, the facts are clearer than ever. It is evident that you must apply for expungement to get your records clear and put your life back on track. After all, you shouldn’t lose great opportunities because of a bad past when you have a bright future ahead. The best way to get started is to consult an expert lawyer who specializes in such cases. They can help you determine your eligibility and complete the filing process for you. Since the process is long and complicated, it makes sense to choose a lawyer who has done it before for clients and has a good track record as well.