Misdemeanor Expungement Lawyers

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What is Misdemeanor Expungement?

Misdemeanor expungement is the process by which misdemeanor charges may be expunged, or permanently erased from one’s criminal record.  Depending on the severity of the case, as well as the individual laws of each state, most misdemeanors can be expunged.  A misdemeanor is generally defined as a less serious crime that is punishable by a monetary fine and/or a sentence of less than one year in jail (not a federal prison). 

Many jurisdictions use various terms for expungement, including, “Setting Aside a Conviction”, “Petition for Dismissal”, and “Record Sealing”.  Misdemeanor expungement is commonly used in connection with juvenile records.  Some states automatically expunge juvenile records once the defendant reaches 18 years of age.

What are some Commonly Expunged Misdemeanors? 

The laws on misdemeanor expungement are constantly changing.  For example, the state of Illinois has recently enacted laws which allow expungement of “minor in possession of alcohol” charges.  Some commonly expungeable misdemeanors include:

• DUI and Traffic misdemeanors
• Simple theft crimes
• Non-violent crimes such as: disorderly conduct, breach of the peace, failure to appear in court, etc.
• Trespassing and vandalism
• Resisting arrest
• Simple assault and battery charges
• Misdemeanors committed while the defendant was a minor, and the defendant has now reached the age of majority (usually 18 years old)

Misdemeanor expungement may not be available for certain misdemeanors.  For example, some misdemeanors are very close in nature to felony crimes.  These can include misdemeanors such as DUI cases involving the death of another party, or misdemeanor charges where the victim is younger than 18 years of age. 

These misdemeanors are known as “wobblers” and can either be treated like a felony or a misdemeanor.  Most felonies are not expungeable, and wobblers may not be expunged in some states. 

What are the Requirements for Misdemeanor Expungement?

In order to be eligible for misdemeanor expungement, you must first apply for the expungement in writing with the proper court.  Misdemeanor is not always automatically granted and should be specifically requested.  Expungement laws may vary by state, but generally the applicant is required to:

• Fulfill a waiting period (usually 1-3 years after discharge from jail or paying fines)
• Have no more than a specific number of prior charges
• Serve or fulfill the terms of the original sentence
• Have no pending proceedings
• Complete probation without any incidents or violations

What is NOT accomplished by Misdemeanor Expungement?

While misdemeanor expungement can help to clear one’s criminal record, there are certain measures that it cannot accomplish.  Misdemeanor expungement CANNOT:

• Restore gun ownership privileges that have been revoked
• Excuse a person from sentences that require registration on a sex offender list
• Excuse a person from disclosing prior criminal charges on a job application, if the law requires such disclosure

Finally, some misdemeanor crimes are classified as “priorables”.  A priorable is a crime that can be used to increase the severity of the sentence for future related crimes.  For example, most DUI convictions can be used as a prior, meaning that any additional DUI charges will be punished more severely due to the first offense. 

If a priorable misdemeanor has been expunged, it will still be deleted from the person’s record.  However, convictions for similar crimes in the future may lead to an enhanced conviction, even if the priorable was already expunged. 

Do I Need a Lawyer for a Misdemeanor Expungement?

Misdemeanor expungement can be a very powerful resource for those who are eligible for it.  Having a clean record can lead to other benefits, such as increased chances of obtaining employment or housing.  However, the laws on misdemeanor expungement vary widely by state and according to the type of misdemeanor involved.  You should contact a criminal lawyer if you need advice on how to get your record expunged.  An experienced attorney can work with you and advise you further on misdemeanor expungement.

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Last Modified: 02-15-2011 11:49 AM PST

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