People who have been arrested or convicted of crimes are usually interested in finding a way to move on from that weak moment. Criminal proceedings can be stress, and perhaps worse, their consequences can last for many years to follow. With this in mind, some people are able to seek an expungement to help them move past the criminal proceeding. While expungements are somewhat routine across the country today, there is some misunderstanding of what expungements will do. They will ensure that a person’s public record does not reflect the arrest or disposition, allowing an individual to go forward without worry of the record chasing them down. There are some things an expungement will not do, however. Those are included in this article.
An expungement will not invalidate the conviction
An expungement is not the same as a dismissal. The conviction will still be valid, and all of the consequences of that conviction will still be real. If you’ve been convicted of a crime, an expungement will only deal with how that conviction appears on your record. It will not excuse you from probation, parole, or any of the consequences that might come as a result of a conviction. This is true whether you’ve been convicted at a criminal trial or you’ve plead guilty in some kind of pre-trial agreement.
An expungement will not protect you from all background checks
One of the primary reasons why people seek expungements is to avoid the consequences of criminal background checks. People who had a single criminal conviction or arrest many years ago may not want to risk that a landlord or employer will give the job to someone else as a result of a public record. What an expungement will do is protect you from routine background checks. Some checks go a step farther, however, and your arrest or conviction may still show up.
FBI background checks are notoriously thorough, and an expunged record may still show up in those checks. Most employers will never go this far, but there are some jobs that will use these invasive checks. In that instance, you may still face some consequences of the lingering public record.
Discharge responsibility to disclose the record in some cases
Even if your record has been expunged, you may still have to disclose the record in limited circumstances. If you are trying to become a lawyer, for instance, you may be required to disclose the arrest or conviction both in your law school process and when you apply to take the bar exam. There are some instances where the application will allow you to leave off any criminal proceedings that are under orders of expungement. You will have to read carefully to determine whether you need to disclose. Failure to disclose can be a costly mistake if the application requires full disclosure.
Make the post-proceeding requirements go away
In most cases, you will not be able to seek an expungement until you have finished with all of the requirements the court has put on your table. In those cases where you can seek expungement while still having to complete conditions of probation, parole, or community reporting, expungement does not discharge your duty. Even if the record of your arrest or conviction is sealed, the court will still require you to comply with any agreements that you signed in order to reach a plea agreement if that is how your case ended.
Expungements are important because they allow people to move on. They will protect you from most searches and allow you to operate like a law-abiding citizen. They aren’t a magic bullet, though, and you’ll need to be aware of the cases when expungements aren’t the fix.