The very first thing I want ya’ll to know and understand, is the difference between the two. Not many understand, or probably don’t even care until you end up with that unwanted felony or misdemeanor on your record and you’re denied that job you wanted because of it. These things exist in “our” communities as forms of blockades to keep us systematically the lower class. I know I may sound cynical, but one of the best quotes I’ve heard for a situation like this is, “If you want to hide the truth from a black person put it in a book”. Crazy right, that they are basically implying that black people don’t read? Well sad to say that’s half true, most don’t want to know because they fear change, but change is inevitable and I’m here to help with that.

So let’s jump on into it.

Expungement vs Sealing

The only real difference between expunging a criminal record and sealing it is that a sealed record still “exists” in both a legal and physical sense, while expungement results in the deletion of any record that an arrest or criminal charge ever occurred.  Now the next question I had was which was better, is it better to seal or expunge your record? In general, they both have equal effects, but expungement is the best way to go. 

When you seal a record there is no chance of the record ever resurfacing. However, you will usually not have a choice in this matter. Some offenses can only be sealed and not expunged.

Is an expungement still a conviction?

An expungement still means that an arrest or conviction happened, it just means that a “sealed,” or “erased” conviction from a person’s criminal record for most purposes. After the expungement process is complete, an arrest or a criminal conviction normally doesn’t need to be disclosed by the person who was arrested or convicted.

Another question a lot of people have is,  do misdemeanors go away, and does it take 7 years?

Do Misdemeanors Go Away?

If you were arrested, but not convicted of a misdemeanor crime, then that arrest may show up on a background check up to seven years after, which I find to be pretty messed up considering that you weren’t convicted so it should be gone for real but the court record was originally filed. This is subject to the laws set forth by the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). But basically it’s like a catch 22, either way it’s wrong.

Next question

Can you expunge a sealed record?

A record that is initially ineligible for expungement (because adjudication was withheld) may become eligible after it has been sealed for 10 years. However, a person may not seal or expunge one arrest record and then, later and in a different proceeding, ask to have a different arrest record sealed or expunged.

If a Felony is Expunged, Does that Mean it is Totally Erased from My Record?

In most states, an expunged felony is not a matter of public record. It’s basically illegal for them to ask you on job applications anyway, it’s discrimination its finest.  In other words, you do not have to report being charged or convicted of the expunged felony on job, housing, public benefits, or education-related applications. If a potential employer performs a background search, then the expunged felony (sometimes) will not show up.

However, there are limits to this protection. Law enforcement agencies can still view expunged records. For example, law enforcement and the courts may be able to consider expunged charges if the charges may impact sentencing in a later criminal case.

On top of that, many states require the disclosure of expunged offenses if you are seeking a job involving law enforcement, financial services, or working with children. You also may have to disclose your expunged charges if you apply for a professional license (such as a legal, medical, or pharmacy license).

And last but definitely not least, do I need to hire a lawyer if I want a felony expunged from my record?

In order to expunge or seal a felony, you must file a petition with the court, follow “strict” procedural rules, because they not gone make it easy for you. Then present evidence your own to support the expungement you want, and you may have to testify at a hearing. Due to these requirements, you may benefit from hiring a seasoned expungement lawyer, but my guess is that it’ll just be cheaper to do all the leg work yourself.

While it may be possible to go through these steps on your own, there are many important steps that must be completed correctly in order to even make it to the hearing.  If anything is out of order you will be denied before you even get started good. For a smooth process and the highest chance of success, it is in your best interest to work with a lawyer from the beginning, but if you’re trying to save some money, or you just flat out can’t afford it, remember to take your time and find out as much for free as possible.

I hope this was informative for ya’ll. Doing research for this article opened my eyes as well. The more I dig I see this system is designed with us in mind, and set up for us to fail, or be captured. It’s time to start beating the system at its own game. 

Chantele R. Mitchell, Law and Politics reporter- The Block Paper Weekly

Categories: LOCAL & STATE, THE LAW

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