Overview of Expungement and Record Sealing
Convictions is state court will be governed by the law of the particular court. So if you were convicted in California court, you need to research California law- even if you now live in another state. Record sealing and expungement have different meanings in different states. The requirements for eligibility, waiting periods, costs, and benefits all vary by state. So make sure any research that you do about expungement or record sealing is tailored to the state where your conviction occurred.
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Eligibility for Expungement and Record Sealing
All states require that you complete your sentence before you can have a case sealed or expunged. This only make sense as you cannot be serving a sentence for a case that has no records. However, in many states, you may be able to shorten your sentence by asking the court to terminate your sentence early. This may make you immediately eligible for expungement or record sealing, at a minimum it may shorten the waiting period.
Waiting Period To Have A Record Expunged or Sealed
Most states have a waiting period for expungement; however there are notable exceptions that include California, Arizona, and others. You want to pay attention to when the waiting period begins. In most cases, the waiting period to have a record sealed or expunged starts from the time you complete your probation or parole. However, there are exceptions.
Types of Cases That Can Be Expunged
Each state determines what types of cases can be expunged. It is rare that serious sex offenses that involve children can ever be expunged or sealed, though there may be other types of remedies such as a pardon or certificate of rehabilitation for sex offenses. Some states, like California, define eligibility largely based on the type of sentence. For instance, in California, you cannot have a conviction expunged if you went to prison. However, someone convicted of the same offense can have it expunged if they went County Jail. Check your state law to see what types of cases can be expunged and sealed.
Expungement and Sealing Court Hearing
Most states require a judge to approve a request to seal or expunge a record. This means a motion or petition needs to be filed on the court and, in most cases, served upon the district attorney. The state, represented by the DA, can, in most cases, object to the request. The judge has final say on whether a criminal record is sealed or expunged. It always best to be represented by an attorney at all stages of the process. Look for an attorney who specializes in expungement or record sealing. If you cannot afford an attorney and meet low-income requirements, you may wish to enlist the service of the public defender.