When an individual faces criminal charges, one of the main concerns of a criminal defense attorney is to see to it that prosecutors are doing their job correctly and that the defendant’s rights are protected. Minimizing the consequences of criminal charges is the basic goal of any criminal defense. One of the important consequences of criminal charges, of course, is that it will go on the defendant’s criminal record.
A criminal record can impact a number of aspects of one’s life, from applying to jobs to finding housing. Fortunately, there is a legal process that allows for the scrubbing of a criminal record in some circumstances. This is called the expungement process. Both adults and juveniles may be able to have their record expunged, though the requirements are different for each.
Not all criminal charges may be expunged, but only those which meet certain requirements. Eligible charges which are dismissed prior to trial may be expunged immediately, as long as all the charges in the cases were dismissed prior to trial and they are otherwise eligible. On the other hand, in cases in which the defendant was acquitted at trial and cases in which adjudication was withheld, charges may not be expunged unless they are first sealed for a minimum of ten years.
Similar to expunction, not all criminal charges may be sealed, and a criminal history record cannot be sealed if the applicant has been judged guilty—or delinquent for any felony or certain misdemeanors, in the case of a minor—of any criminal offense in any jurisdiction, regardless of whether the charges are related. So, the requirements are fairly strict.
In applying for expunction of a criminal record, it is necessary that an individual first apply for a Certificate of Eligibility. We’ll pick up on this point in our next post, and continue speaking about expunction.