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How does expungement work?

"Expungement" means having your criminal conviction or arrest "sealed" in the eyes of the law. This means that by most accounts, your record will not appear on a criminal record search, but that does not mean that it is completely stricken from the record. There are still government agencies that will have access to the previous arrests or conviction, such as the court system and law enforcement agencies, who may still access the information and use it when deemed appropriate, such as a future trial.

It does, however, mean that you are not obligated to list previous arrests or convictions when filling out paperwork that asks such questions, such as an apartment contract or during a job interview. Basically, expunged records are not available to the public, which would include employers, creditors and private investigators.

It is important to note that previous convictions will still be taken into consideration in court if you are facing subsequent arrests or convictions. It simply means that the previous arrests and convictions are "under seal" and not available to those without the legal authority to access the information.

The laws, policies and procedures vary from state to state and even within jurisdictions. A person's criminal history can play a significant role in future prospects such as where the person can get a job, possibly where they can live as well as other restrictions for those with a criminal history. If you are seeking an expungement, it may be in your best interests to speak with a legal professional to determine whether you are eligible and to help you along through the process.

Source: findlaw.com, "Expungement Basics," Accessed Mar. 14, 2017

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