How Long Does A Felony Last Before It Can Be Expunged? In some cases, those convicted with a felony can have it stick with them for a lifetime, severely hurting their employ-ability chances as a result. Felony Expungement – Everything you need to know!
One potential method to remove a felony from one’s record is to seek to have it expunged. In the case that it is deleted, the offense can be removed from one’s history along with so that it no longer is displayed on their record.
This procedure generally goes to show that the person has been rehabilitated. It also serves as a way to prevent such felony from showing on the person’s record so that it no longer hinders their chances of getting employed
This blog post will go into detail about how long it takes for a felony to be expunged.
Felony Expungement Eligibility:
It’s important to keep in mind that not all felonies can be expunged. However, if the felon hasn’t committed any previous felonies, then it’s more than likely that his offense can be expunged.
While clemency can be granted by the governor or Pardon Board official in the case of a state felony, or by the President of the United States if it’s a Federal felony. In the use of expungement, it’s the governor of the state where the person has been convicted who grants expungement.
The laws differ from state to state when it comes to felony expungement. This is why it’s crucial to check this process for a particular state before going forth. Having legal counsel is recommended in this case.
It’s crucial that the felons complete their sentence. The person cannot qualify for felony expungement unless he’s been out of prison anywhere from five to ten years which varies from state to state.
They must have also finished probation and have paid any fines they owed or restitution incurred from their felony.
First-time felons have good chances to have their felonies expunged. However, those chances diminish as the person commits more convicts. Having one’s offense expunged while having a lengthy record of felons is extremely hard.
The nature of the felony committed also makes an essential factor. If one has committed an offense that involves sexual crimes, child pornography, crimes involving a victim who is a minor or any other violent crimes, then that felony cannot be expunged.
It’s also required that the felon keep a clean record after being released from prison.
They must also remain free from alcoholism or substance abuse for at least one year and had been deemed rehabilitated by the court if that was a part of the sentence.
It’s mandatory that felons have obtained a GED or a high school diploma and have completed at least one year of community service, according to the court.
As a felon, keeping track and documenting self-improvement be it involving education, training or work can prove to be very useful and can increase one’s chances of getting their felony expunged.
Effect Of Felony Expungement
Those with an expunged record must have their records still available in some cases.
For example, their records must be shown to a licensing office when attempting to obtain a license to carry a gun or law enforcement if the felon is involved in a criminal investigation.
Another case would be the federal state, or city employers when it comes to applying for a job related to the investigation or prosecution of people under civil or criminal statutes.
Some states also require access to expunged records if the felon wishes to apply for a job as a school teacher, police officer, or correction officer.
There are also other states that allow consideration of expunged records for jobs in courts or within the juvenile legal system
Applying for professional licenses such as medicine or law also require access to said deleted records.
In most of the states, felony expungement can only be granted once, after which it’s impossible to repeat the procedure.
If a felon is later arrested for another crime, his legal history will increase the gravity of the new offense that’s been committed, even if the convict had his previous felony expunged.
Felonies that have been expunged are also brought up again when evaluating the seriousness of the new crime.
Such an offender is considered a repeat offender. In this case, previous felonies, though expunged, are again, recognized by the court when sentencing the repeat offender.
In the case that a felony expungement request is denied, the felon will be informed as to why his application wasn’t accepted, along with the steps they need to follow to reapply, and also how long they have to wait to reapply.
The first thing to do would be to send a petition to the court in the jurisdiction where the felony was committed. A copy must be sent to the District Attorney in that jurisdiction.
The District Attorney should then respond with a recommendation to the court within the course of 60 days, which it will the consider along with the information from the applicant and the District Attorney.
After that, the court will decide whether or not the eligibility criteria for felony expungement have been met or not and whether or not granting the expungement will put public safety at risk of jeopardy. The felons are then notified by the decision of the court.
If expungement is given, all records relating back to the crime will be sealed with the exception of a court opinion that is already available to the public and documents related to the appeal.
As a result of the expungement, felons are no longer required to show information related to the felony and their status will not disqualify them from any profession.
A hidden record of the conviction would still be maintained by the Department of Justice for any future legal action. Felons can also deny having committed a felony when they’re asked.
Supporting Felons After Expungement:
The felon who seek felony expungement should have the support of their family.
Once they’ve been granted expungement, should always provide moral support and acknowledge their efforts at repenting for their offenses in order to keep them motivated and help them reintegrate into society.
In the case that their felony isn’t expunged, it’s important not to lose hope as the court will provide all the information so that the next time they reapply, their chances will be better
It’s important to keep in mind that felons are, above all, human and should be allowed second chances.
What is Felony Expungement?
The negative consequences of a conviction or criminal arrest often linger on a person’s record – even years after completion of sentence.
Whether the accused person was convicted or not, the presence of a felony-related case on your history leaves a significant dent on one’s background check report.
Even worse, the advent of technology has made the once complex background check process a lot easier. Access to a person’s complete history and related legal records has been simplified. Landlords, employers, and even car dealers can now have easy access to background checks of prospective tenants, employees, and buyers.
Unfortunately, in most cases, they prefer to deal with persons with clean records than those with criminal concerns. This has raised significant concerns among felons.
States Expungement Eligibility
Expungement laws across the united states vary from state to state. A person’s felony record can be expunged as allowed by the resident state’s constitution. Following successful expungement, a felon’s record will no longer have a trace of the conviction or criminal arrest.
So, when asked during an employment interview or housing-related application, if they have been convicted or arrested, they can answer in the Negative, “NO.”
The states, considering the life-long negative consequences of these records on one’s life, have enacted specific felony expungement guidelines.
Expungement defines a legal process that permits the destruction or sealing of an individual’s criminal records. Thenceforth, the courts and society treat such files as though they never existed.
Every state has its special legislation on felony expungement eligibility and the application process.
More so, the terms used vary across the states – “Destruction,” “expunction,” and “removal” of records are common vocabs used across states. Though expungements may come in different terms, they all serve a common aim – to delete your criminal files from the public.
Felony Expungement Vs Sealing
Typically, Expungements do not only clear your records from some cloud database, but it also destroys all related evidence, physically. This means, after an expungement, the records no longer exist, in any form or shape, whether online or off.
However, some states do no destroy records; instead, they ‘seal’ them.
It is noteworthy, therefore, that although ‘sealed’ and ‘expungement’ are often used interchangeably, the actual meanings differ.
Where records are merely sealed, some state laws may make references to them under critical future circumstances. Referrals might be made to a sealed case during an investigation by law enforcement or where the same person is convicted or arrest for a more severe crime in the future.
If your state laws recognize merely ‘sealing’ of records, you may want to find out the likely conditions that could unseal such records.
Forms on Expungement
- Certificate of Actual Innocence
This is unarguably the most potent type of expungement. It is usually given to people whose charges were dropped after a criminal arrest, or to persons found innocent after trial.
Getting a certificate strikes out the possibility that one’s records have been merely sealed – not destroyed – and could be revived anytime in the future.
This certificate says the accused does not deserve the records in the first place and hence, no justification for a record in any form.
- Proof of Rehabilitation
Proof of rehabilitation is another route for felons to obtain an expungement. It can either be a standalone proof or may come with the petition.
This proof serves as evidence that a one-time convict has shown willingness – and made necessary attempts – to turn a leaf and correct the mistakes that lead to their incarceration or arrest. Such evidentiary proof may include making restitution and showing full remorse.
- Pardon from Law Enforcement
Law enforcement may also choose to forgive a criminal offender. Such a pardon, however, will not clear off the criminal record, but only issues an official document that confirms your pardon.
Where requested, you will still have to relate your criminal past. That said, a pardon reduces the effect of a criminal record significantly.
Benefits of Felony Expungement
A successful expungement means you can legally and truthfully say you have never been arrested or convicted of a crime. It literally takes your record back to before the incident happened. Before your arrest, trial, or conviction.
During job applications or staff interviews, your employers have no right to ask whether or not you had your records expunged. Also, it does not affect your employment status and must not in any way be used to make judgments about you at your workplace.
In fact, an expunged felony will not reflect in almost all criminal background checks.
So, if you can say “no” to the “Do you have a past criminal record” question, then you stand a chance – as everyone without records does – to get good-paying jobs and rise to the peak of your career without any stigmatization.
Also, some landlords or housing agents go beyond credit checks – they are concerned about your criminal background too. So, an expungement clears off the history-check barrier in getting an apartment where you wish due to your record.
The same goes for a credit card or mortgage application.
Eligibility Rules for Felony Expungement
Felony expungement guidelines and related provisions for legal records are embedded in state laws. States differ on the expungement requirements, procedures, and processes. However, some primary guidelines are similar across most states in the U.S.
Typically, eligibility for felony expungement comes with specific criteria. These requirements include
- The particular crime or infraction committed must be one that can be erased, according to the laws of the specific state.
- Criminal charges must have been dismissed, or the defendant pronounced not guilty after a trial. That said, in some states, records cannot be expunged after conviction.
- Where the criminal charges are officially filed after the release of the offender
- Restitution and related fines/charges must have been fully settled
- The expungement applicant must have no pending or new offenses or charges
- The petitioner must have satisfied or completed all court-ordered education programs, probation, community service, and diversion programs.
- The applicant must meet the minimum waiting period before the expungement petition. Waiting periods differ across states and crimes.
Adult Vs. Minors
In most states, the guidelines for felony expungement are different for minors and adult offenders. Some state laws make expunging minor records mandatory. In some other states, minors’ records are automatically sealed.
The idea is to prevent juvenile offenders from suffering the negative consequences that stick with them to adulthood and, perhaps, their entire lives.
Having met all conditions, the petitioner files an expungement petition or application.
The petition or application usually comes with some documents, including :
- Acceptance of service
- Certificate of Eligibility (obtainable at the states’ probation departments)
- The victim and prosecutor statements
- Hearing waiver and consent
- Findings fact and conclusions of the law
- Petition’s response
- Victim checklist
Applicants work with the probation department in their respective states to get a report which determines the court’s decision on whether or not you qualify for eligibility.
Expect that a prosecutor may contest your expungement before the date fixed for your expungement petition hearing. The probation department’s report will be scrutinized by the court, reviewing the applicants’ behavior following their arrest or sentence or release from prison. They investigate to see whether or not the incident was an isolated one.
If the court’s checks posit that the incident was a standalone case, most likely, the expungement request will be approved.
Reasons for Expungement Denial
The expungement petition may be declined for many reasons, which vary across states. However, there are common reasons for denial of expungement petition, including:
- Court records which show the case file is still open
- The applicant fails to meet up with the requirements or waiting period, probation terms, and has not made necessary restitution as ordered by the court.
- Where the petitioner has a new conviction or a pending arrest warrant
- If the case was tried in a federal court. Federal criminals are not eligible for expungement.
- The crime in question is not an expunge-able offense.
Typically, the more severe the nature of the offense, the fewer chances of getting an expungement. Only a handful of felonies are eligible for expungement – notably, sexual-related criminals hardly qualify.
How to get A Felony Expungement
Depending on the nature of the offense and the state, some felony records can be expunged. Severe crimes such as sexual-related offenses (like child pornography and rape) as well as violence-related crimes may never be erased.
To begin, an applicant must file an expungement petition with the court that ordered the conviction sentence.
While you can quickly obtain your state’s expungement form online, a certified expungement attorney may be needed to help you navigate through the process seamlessly.
Of course, to the uninitiated, the process can be somewhat technical and lengthy, particularly with felonies.
In the end, the judge reserves the right to either grant or deny an expungement petition.
How to Get a Misdemeanor Expungement
Generally, misdemeanors are regarded as less severe crimes punishable by community service, monetary fines, and/or less than a year jail time. But, just like felonies, the probability of removing a misdemeanor from your legal record is widely dependent on individual state laws.
Less severe misdemeanors –particularly first offenses – are relatively easy to erase.
Typically, you will likely get an expungement if the paper works are correctly filed and, perhaps, appear for the expungement hearing in court.
Do well to check the sentencing court for a guide on how to go about the paperwork.
However, more severe misdemeanors may take close procedures as with less severe felonies. Misdemeanors popularly referred to as “Wobblers” (including assault, theft, DUI’s) may be handled like a misdemeanor or felony. The fact is, most “wobblers” are never granted an expungement.
Expunging a DUI depends – basically on individual states’ laws. In some states, DUI convictions are ineligible for expungement. Sates where expungement is not an option for DUI demand that the DUI must have no jail time, but probation only.
Also, the applicant must have satisfied all terms of the probation and without any pending criminal charges against them.
Besides the dent it drops on your criminal record, a DUI also ruins your driving record. The criminal case stands separate from the civil or administrative case.
Expungement, however, does not cover driving records. It does not also stop a license restriction and related matters under the Department of Motor Vehicles and related state agencies.
We advise that you discuss with a lawyer with experience in both expungement and DUI arrests. This might go a long way to clear off both your driving and criminal records.
Felony Expungement: In In A Nutshell
Do your felony records make it difficult to find a job, rent an apartment, apply to a particular school? Or do you wish to put your past behind? It is in your best interest to ‘delete’ those offenses from your felony records.
Summarily, here’s how to clear off felony from your records.
Find out if your felony can be expunged
State laws differ on offenses that can be expunged from offenders’ records. If your crime does not relate to violence and sexual assault and you’ve not been found wanting after your felony sentence, your chance of clearing off your offense is pretty high.
Find out the expungement guidelines in your state and see if the crime you committed can be expunged.
Read More: List of Felonies That Cannot be Expunged?.
Gather your records
If the crime committed can be expunged, you will have to collect legal documents and data that records your felony. Such legal papers may include docket number, indictment, as well as deposition date.
Discuss with the attorney who represented you during your trial to obtain this information. Copies of the records are also available at the Superior Court Criminal Case Management Office.
Complete the required forms as obtainable in your state.
An experienced attorney may walk you through this phase better. The needed document may include Expungement Order, Order for Hearing and Petition for Expungement
Notarize the forms and distribute them to the relevant agencies
Ensure you have a copy of all your forms – you’d need them at your hearing. The agencies you submit your forms to is mostly dependent on who presided over your felony.
You may send to either the municipal court clerk, Attorney General, County Prosecutor, or the Chief of Police.
Go for your expungement hearing
Here, you need an experienced attorney to represent you and plead your case as well as offer reasons why your felony should be expunged. However, the court reserves the right to either grant or decline your expungement petition.
Before Contacting a Lawyer
Before you contact an attorney, ensure you have gathered enough details about your legal situation. Ensure to find out if your attorney’s service comes at a flat rate regardless of the time involved in the process or if charges will be paid on an hourly basis.
This resource by the American Bar Association provides useful links to attorney referral service. You can search for an attorney near you.
Frequently Asked Questions About Felony Expungement
How can I do a criminal background check?
There is a range of options as to where to run a criminal history check. However, for a more reliable and complete criminal history, the FBI database is your best bet.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation will ( for a fee) general your criminal records (also termed “rap sheep” but officially called Identity History Summary).
This comprehensive summary captures all your fingerprint submissions and other data sent by state and local law enforcement to the FBI over time. In the event the infractions were reported to federal authorities, the summary will also capture fines and citations.
For arrest-related submissions, the check also reveals the reporting agency, arrest date, arrest charge, and disposition of the arrest.
You may then obtain a copy of your background records. You will find out the step by step application process spelled out on the FBI official website.
First, you must complete the request form, get your fingerprint, pay the applicable fees, and send required documentation to the CJIS Division of the FBI. Presently, it takes between 12 to 14 weeks to process your application.
You can also obtain your records through an Approved Channeler. Although private setups, they have exclusive contracts with the federal bureau to help people run their background history checks.
These approved Channelers get the fingerprint submission and related data and forward them all to the FBI CJIS Division. On issuance of the history summary, the Channeler delivers to their clients.
These FBI-certified Channelers are simply intermediaries between the background check applicants and the FBI. They help facilitate the process and expedite receipt of the Identity History Summary.
However, the channelers usually place an additional fee in the form of payment for their services. Find a channeler close to you and find out the processing duration, cost, and other relevant information.
How can I get a free criminal history report?
Besides the FBI, you can find tons of websites that offer free reports – check Google.
However, since they are non-paid services, you may not get the best result from these archives. The fact is, most free records are actual links to unsubstantiated or obsolete criminal data resources and are, in most cases, incomplete.
Also, you can obtain free records from local or/and state law enforcement agencies. To confirm if you are checking out an official website of a government agency, see what ends the webpage address.
Typically, sites of government agencies do not end with “Com” but rather” .gov.” You may want to start the process with a call or physical visit to a local law enforcement office.
Remember, the FBI Background Check offers the most reliable and comprehensive package.
What does an expungement order mean?
Where the court grants an expungement petition, the judge gives an expungement order. This legal directive is an instruction to delete – or at least, seal – all convictions and arrest records.
How much would an expungement cost?
Remember expungement guidelines, and processes differ across states. However, when it comes to hiring an attorney, you may spend anywhere from $400 to $1000 for a standalone charge.
However, based on the number and severity of criminal charges, the experience of the attorney and local legal rates, research and paperwork needed, the costs could be as high as between $1000 to $4000.
What are the duties of Expungement Lawyers?
Indeed, some straightforward expungement cases may not require the service of an attorney. It may only need you to fill out the paperwork correctly and make an appearance during the expungement hearing.
However, in felony cases and severe misdemeanors, a seasoned expungement lawyer would be a worthy investment.
They will provide you with useful professional guidelines on how to satisfy eligibility requirements, depending on the state.
They go further to help research your case, file the relevant documentation, and even represent you during court hearings.
Expungement can significantly influence you’re your ability to get a job, an apartment, a loan, etc.
Since your prosecutors and judges may want to challenge your expungement petition, it will do you a lot good to have a certified and experienced attorney take the wheel.
Robert Gomez was born and raised in the Bronx, New York. He currently lives in Northern California with “the wifey,” “the kids,” “the dog,” and “that cat,” 🙁 He is also a former journalist who has interviewed murderers on death row. Felonyfriendlyjobs.org was born to help ex-felons get a second chance in life.