Expungement and sealing are legal terms used to describe the process of removing or hiding criminal records from public view. Although they are similar under Arkansas expungement laws in that they both aim to improve a person’s chances of obtaining employment, housing, and other opportunities by removing the stigma associated with a criminal record, there are some key differences between the two.
In Arkansas, expungement and sealing are two distinct legal remedies that serve different purposes. Expungement refers to the complete removal of a criminal record, while sealing refers to the concealment of certain parts of the record.
Expungement in Arkansas means that the criminal record is physically destroyed as if it never existed. The individual can legally state that they have never been arrested, charged, or convicted of the offense in question. However, not all criminal records are eligible for expungement in Arkansas. Some offenses, such as violent felonies, sex crimes, and offenses involving children, are ineligible for expungement.
On the other hand, sealing in Arkansas means that the criminal record still exists, but certain parts of it are hidden from public view. The record is sealed to prevent it from being accessed by the general public, including potential employers, landlords, and lenders. However, certain government agencies and law enforcement personnel may still be able to access the sealed record.
In Arkansas, the process of expungement and sealing is different for each offense and is governed by specific rules and regulations. Generally, the expungement process is more complicated and time-consuming than the sealing process. For example, to expunge a criminal record, an individual must file a petition with the court and meet certain eligibility criteria, such as completing all court-ordered sentences and not having any new criminal convictions. Sealing a criminal record, on the other hand, may only require the completion of a certain period of time since the offense or the completion of probation.
Expungement and Sealing of Juvenile Criminal Records in Arkansas
Expungement and sealing laws also apply to juvenile criminal records in Arkansas. Juvenile records are typically confidential and not available to the public, but they can still affect a person’s ability to obtain certain jobs, licenses, and other opportunities in the future.
Expungement of juvenile records in Arkansas means that the records are completely destroyed and cannot be accessed by anyone, including law enforcement and government agencies. The purpose of expungement is to allow juveniles to move forward with their lives without the burden of a criminal record.
In Arkansas, a juvenile record can be expunged if the juvenile has reached the age of 18 and at least one year has passed since the adjudication of the case. However, certain offenses, such as violent crimes and sex offenses, may not be eligible for expungement.
Sealing of juvenile records in Arkansas means that the records are not destroyed, but they are hidden from public view. Sealing is often used to protect the privacy of the juvenile while still allowing the records to be available to certain authorized parties, such as law enforcement and the court system.
In Arkansas, a juvenile record can be sealed if the juvenile has reached the age of 21 and has not been convicted of a felony or a misdemeanor involving physical injury or threat of physical injury. The sealing process involves filing a petition with the court, and the court will determine whether the sealing is in the best interest of the juvenile and the public.
Sealing of Adult Criminal Records in Arkansas
To be eligible for sealing of a criminal record in Arkansas, you must have completed all of the terms of your sentence, including any probation or parole requirements. Additionally, a certain amount of time must have passed since the completion of the sentence, depending on the type of offense.
For example, a non-violent misdemeanor offense may be eligible for sealing one year after the completion of the sentence, while a non-violent felony offense may require a waiting period of five years.
Associated Fees and Paperwork
The process of sealing adult criminal records in Arkansas can be complicated and require the assistance of an experienced attorney. You must file a petition with the court, provide copies of their criminal record, and attend a court hearing to expunge a record in Arkansas. The court will consider factors such as the nature and seriousness of the offense, your criminal history, and the potential impact of sealing the record on public safety.
In terms of fees, the cost of sealing a criminal record in Arkansas varies depending on the county in which the petition is filed. Some counties may charge a filing fee, while others may not. Additionally, fees may be associated with obtaining copies of criminal records and other required paperwork.
What Happens If My Petition Is Denied?
If your petition to expunge or seal your criminal record in Arkansas is denied, you have some options.
First, you may be able to file an appeal with a higher court. An appeal must be filed within 30 days of the denial of the petition and must demonstrate that the lower court made a legal error in denying the petition.
If an appeal is not an option or is unsuccessful, you may still be able to pursue other remedies. For example, you may be able to apply for a pardon or executive clemency from the governor. A pardon is an official forgiveness of a criminal conviction, and if granted, it can restore certain rights, such as the right to possess firearms.
However, pardons are typically only granted in exceptional circumstances, such as where there is evidence of actual innocence or where a person’s conviction was based on a constitutional violation.
Another option is to seek a modification of the original sentence. Depending on the circumstances of your case, a judge may be able to modify your sentence to reduce or eliminate the negative effects of the criminal record. For example, a judge may be able to reduce a felony conviction to a misdemeanor, which may be eligible for expungement or sealing.
The denial of a petition for expungement or sealing can be a complicated legal issue, and it’s recommended that you consult with an experienced attorney to discuss your options. An attorney can review your case, help you understand the reasons for the denial, and guide you through the process of pursuing other legal remedies.
Implications of a Successful Expungement
A successful expungement of a criminal record can have significant implications for your life. In Arkansas, expungement allows for the removal of certain criminal records from public view, which can have a positive impact on employment, housing, and other opportunities.
One of the primary effects of an expungement is that the criminal record is no longer publicly accessible. Potential employers, landlords, and others will not be able to see the expunged record during background checks or other searches. This can be particularly beneficial for people seeking employment in industries that require background checks, such as healthcare or education.
Another effect of an expungement is that you can truthfully state on job applications, housing applications, and other forms that you have not been convicted of a crime. However, there are certain exceptions to this rule, such as for certain government positions or where a criminal record is required by law to be disclosed.
Additionally, an expungement can have a positive impact on your mental health and overall well-being. A criminal record can be a constant reminder of past mistakes and can make it difficult to move forward in life. Expungement can provide closure and allow you to focus on your future.
Consulting a Criminal Law Attorney
If you are considering pursuing an expungement in Arkansas, seek the guidance of an experienced expungement lawyer. An attorney can help you navigate the legal process, determine your eligibility for expungement, and advocate on your behalf in court.
Don’t let a criminal record hold you back – contact an Arkansas expungement lawyer today to discuss your options.