Felony expungement refers to a legal process where a person’s criminal records, specifically felony convictions, are removed from public records and treated as though they never existed.
This process can be beneficial for people when applying for jobs, seeking housing, or pursuing other opportunities.
Reasons for Seeking Felony Expungement
There are several reasons why a person might want to have a felony expunged from their record.
Felony convictions can create barriers to obtaining employment, professional licenses, and the right to vote.
Even if not convicted, an arrest and criminal prosecution on their record can cause similar issues.
I’d Like to Get a Felony Expunged — Is This Possible?
Expunging a felony from a criminal record is a challenging task. Generally, the more severe the crime, the less likely you will be able to have it expunged.
Felony convictions for crimes such as first-degree murder and child pornography are typically not eligible for expungement.
Factors Influencing Felony Expungement
There are factors that may increase the likelihood that a court will consider a request for expungement.
These factors include the person’s age at the time the crime was committed, the nature of the crime, the amount of time passed since the conviction or arrest, and the completion of all court-ordered requirements for the sentence.
The Process of Expunging a Felony
In cases where expungement of a felony is possible, a person must meet the specific criteria outlined by their state before petitioning the court for expungement.
Once the required criteria are met, the person may file a petition with the court where the criminal case occurred. The necessary documentation, such as a certified copy of the individual’s criminal record, may be required depending on the state.
If a Felony is Expunged, Does that Mean it is Totally Erased from My Record?
In most states, a felony that has been expunged is no longer a matter of public record. This means that you are not required to report the charge or conviction on applications for employment, housing, public benefits, or education.
If a potential employer performs a background check, the expunged felony will not appear.
Limitations of Expungement
Despite the benefits of expungement, there are limitations.
Law enforcement agencies can still access expunged records, and both law enforcement and the courts may consider expunged charges when determining sentencing in future criminal cases.
When Disclosing Expunged Offenses May Be Required
In some cases, you may be required to disclose expunged offenses when applying for jobs or professional licenses.
Examples of these situations include:
- Law enforcement positions: Police officers, correctional officers, and other positions within law enforcement agencies may require disclosure of expunged offenses due to the sensitive nature of the work and the importance of maintaining public trust.
- Financial services positions: Jobs in banking, finance, and related industries may require disclosure of expunged offenses, particularly if the expunged offense involved fraud, embezzlement, or other financial crimes.
- Positions working with children: Teachers, daycare providers, and other professionals working with children may be required to disclose expunged offenses to ensure the safety and well-being of minors under their care.
- Healthcare positions: Some healthcare professions, such as nursing or medical practitioners, may require disclosure of expunged offenses when applying for a professional license or employment in certain healthcare settings.
- Legal professions: Attorneys and other legal professionals may need to disclose expunged offenses when applying for a license to practice law or for employment within the legal field.
- Government positions: Jobs within certain government agencies, particularly those involving national security or access to sensitive information, may require disclosure of expunged offenses.
- Education positions: Some educational institutions may require disclosure of expunged offenses when applying for employment or admission to a higher education program.
Check the specific disclosure requirements for the job or professional license you are applying for, as these requirements may vary from state to state and among different industries. When in doubt, consult with an attorney or the relevant licensing board for guidance on disclosure requirements.
Is Expungement the Same as Record Sealing?
Expungement and record sealing are different processes. While record sealing restricts access to criminal records, the records still exist and may be accessible via a court order.
On the other hand, expungement results in the erasure of criminal charges and arrest files, making them non-existent.
What Are the Requirements for Felony Expungement?
The criteria for felony expungement vary from state to state.
Some common requirements include a waiting period after the conviction, completion of the terms of the conviction, a clear record of subsequent criminal charges and convictions, and proof of rehabilitation and contribution to society.
Can All Felonies Be Expunged?
Not all felonies can be expunged.
Most states will not expunge violent felonies, sex offenses, and other serious crimes, including weapons charges.
In states that do not allow felony convictions to be expunged, you can expunge felony criminal records only if the charges were dismissed, withdrawn, pardoned, or resulted in a non-conviction, such as deferred sentencing or a finding of not guilty.
Which Felonies Are Not Eligible for Expungement?
Most states that permit felony expungements impose limitations on which felonies can be sealed and/or expunged.
Generally, expungement is not available for people who committed serious or violent crimes.
Additionally, people required to register as sex offenders cannot have their records expunged or be removed from the registry.
Federal crimes are also not eligible for expungement.
Examples of Non-Expungeable Felonies
It is difficult to provide an exhaustive list of non-expungeable felonies, but some examples of felonies that are typically not eligible for expungement include:
- Crimes involving a victim under the age of 18;
- Sex crimes, such as rape or sexual battery;
- Corrupting a minor;
- Child pornography.
Legal Consequences of Expunged Felonies
Certain expunged felonies may still have legal consequences in states with three-strikes laws, such as California.
Under these laws, an expunged felony may still count towards the three-strikes limit. Consequently, even if the felony does not appear on an individual’s record, it may still be cited if future felonies are committed.
Felony Reduction and Wobbler Crimes
Some crimes may be eligible for a reduction from a felony to a misdemeanor, which is easier to expunge, especially for non-violent crimes. Some states recognize wobbler crimes, which can be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony, depending on the case’s circumstances.
A felony reduction lawyer can help determine if a charge is eligible for reduction from a felony to a misdemeanor.
Do I Need an Attorney for Help with Felony Expungement?
A criminal lawyer can help you with felony expungement.
An experienced expungement lawyer can guide you through the process, help with all necessary steps, and represent you during any court proceedings. Filing a petition with the court, following procedural rules, presenting evidence to support the expungement request, and potentially testifying all require legal expertise.
Since a felony stays on your record for life, it is crucial to have an attorney’s assistance to present your best case. While it may be possible to handle the process independently, many steps must be completed accurately and within specific timeframes before the court will consider an expungement request.
Use LegalMatch to find an expungement lawyer who can advise you on local laws regarding expungement and protect your rights throughout the process.