A criminal drug record can be described as a list of drug-related charges that are associated with a particular person. The list will become part of that person’s overall criminal record, which is usually stored with a local or county recording authority located in the jurisdiction where the person resides.
Although most criminal drug charges are not classified as violent crimes, having a drug charge on your criminal record can severely impact your personal life and may have very negative consequences. The reason why drug charges can impact a person’s life so drastically is due to the fact that public policy views drugs and drug-related conduct as a danger to society at large.
Accordingly, a person who has a criminal record that contains drug charges may have a hard time dealing with certain aspects of daily life. For example, it may be more difficult for persons with drug charges to get a job, be approved for a loan or housing application, and/or vote in an election. This is especially true in cases where a person was convicted of a criminal drug charge, which in turn, led to a prison sentence.
Is Clearing a Criminal Drug Record Possible?
While it is possible for a person to have their criminal drug record cleared, it is not always available in every instance and it is certainly not the easiest of processes. Despite the difficulties associated with having a criminal drug record cleared, many persons are often interested in pursuing this hard task since having a drug record comes with many negative consequences.
The process to clear or remove an entry from a criminal record is formally known as “expungement.” Depending on the law that governs expungement in a particular jurisdiction, expungement may either serve to erase an entry entirely or it may only allow for a criminal drug record to be sealed. With the latter, this means that the drug charge may still be viewable and searchable by certain parties.
Although the laws and process will vary by jurisdiction, some general requirements that may be necessary to have a criminal drug record expunged include the following:
- Good behavior: An individual usually must be able to demonstrate “good behavior” or that they have been participating in activities that would have a positive effect on themselves and/or on their community. An individual must also be able to prove that they have not received any further citations or violations since their last drug charge.
- Waiting period: Once an individual has served and completed their sentence requirements, they must wait a certain period of time before they will be permitted to file a petition for expungement. This time frame or “waiting period” may last for as long as five to ten years after the requirements of the individual’s sentence have officially been fulfilled.
- Filing a request: Expungement is not an action that is automatically granted, but rather is a process that one must specifically submit a request for and have approved by a judge. A petition for removal or expungement can be submitted to a court after the individual has completed their sentence and the waiting period has ended. This means that the individual has no remaining requirements to complete (e.g., community service, probation, counseling, etc.).
In addition, the nature of the drug charges may impact a court’s decision on whether to approve a request to clear a defendant’s criminal drug record or not. It also should be noted that even after a judge’s approval, it can take several months or longer to fully process an order for expungement.
What Is Expungement of Federal Criminal Drug Record?
According to Section 404 of the Controlled Substance Act (“CSA”), only minor federal drug offenses can be expunged from a federal criminal drug record. The CSA provides that a person who is found guilty of this type of offense may be able to have the entry removed from their federal criminal drug record if the following factors exist:
- The person was under the age of 21 years old at the time of the conviction;
- The conviction must have been for simple drug possession;
- The person must not have any prior convictions for federal or state drug charges; and
- The person must have completed all of the court-ordered requirements of their sentence for the conviction.
Are There Differences Between Felony and Misdemeanor Drug Charges?
There are many differences between felony and misdemeanor drug charges. Specifically, for the purposes of clearing an individual’s criminal drug record, it is much more difficult to clear or remove an entry for a felony drug charge than it is to remove one for a misdemeanor drug charge from a criminal drug record.
Although it may be possible to have a felony drug charge removed under very narrow conditions, courts tend to be more willing to approve a request for expungement when a drug crime is charged as a misdemeanor offense. There are also some felony crimes that are not typically eligible for removal, such as first-degree murder, child pornography, and/or violent sex crimes.
In regard to drug charges in particular, drug trafficking and drug manufacturing are two types of felony drug crimes that may not be eligible for expungement. On the other hand, a misdemeanor drug crime, such as drug possession or drug use, may be removable. This is because the law considers crimes like drug trafficking and manufacturing to be more harmful to society, as opposed to drug use and possession, which are primarily only harmful to the individual.
Finally, one other important factor that may apply when attempting to remove either a felony or a misdemeanor drug charge is that a court is much more likely to approve a petition for removal when the criminal drug record entry is for an arrest, rather than for a charge or a conviction.
This is due to the fact that an arrest is based on a belief that the arrestee committed a crime, whereas a charge or a conviction means that the person has had legal proceedings initiated against them or it has been proven that they did in fact commit the crime for which they were arrested and charged, respectively.
Do I Need a Lawyer for Help Clearing a Criminal Drug Record?
The option to clear or expunge an entry from a criminal drug record is not available in every situation. Even when the option is available, it is not always the easiest process to complete. Thus, you may want to consider hiring a local expungement lawyer immediately for further guidance.
An experienced criminal defense lawyer will be able to assist you in navigating the process for clearing or expunging an entry from your criminal drug record. Your lawyer can determine whether or not this is a viable request based on the facts of your specific case. Your lawyer can also inform you of your rights and protections under the law in your state, as well as what else you can do if clearing your criminal drug record is not feasible under the circumstances.
In addition, your lawyer can provide legal representation in court if you are summoned to appear before the judge. Your lawyer can also help you to fix any errors if you think there is a mistake with an entry on your criminal drug record.