Felony expungement possible?
Felony expungement is possible in many circumstances, but not all. In most states a felony is simply a classification of a crime for which the possible punishment ranges from; incarceration for more than one year all the way up to the death penalty. However, it is important to remember that criminal classifications for state offenses are set forth by each state. So it is important to understand the laws and procedures pertaining to felony expungements in the applicable state.
An expungement is either a process or legal action through which a person can get information removed form their criminal record. The effect of the expungement is to remove all information about the charges from a person's criminal record and restore them to the same status prior to their arrest. It means you can legally say you have no prior criminal convictions.
It is important to understand some of the terminology used in the judicial system as well as the factors that determine if a particular felony offense is eligible for expungement. States assign crimes into certain classifications to indicate the seriousness of the offense, like felonies and misdemeanors, for example. Typically, felonies consists of more serious offenses like murder and armed robbery while misdemeanors are usually less serious offenses like simple drug possession or a breach of the peace. Each of these classifications are sub-classified by a letter or number which coincides with some punishment range, which should reasonably fit the seriousness of the crime. Less serious offenses are more likely to be expunged than more serious felonies. Another important distinction is made between violent and non-violent offenses. In some states, non-violent felony charges can potentially be expunged but not violent ones. The terms violent and non-violent are not as straight forward as they may sound, and again are define by each state. In South Carolina for example, manufacturing methamphetamine's is classified as a violent felony. while being charged with a second offense criminal domestic violence is a non-violent misdemeanor.
Other important factors that impact felony expungement eligibility are...
- Prior record at the time of the arrest
- Completion of sentence
- Successful completion of robation and parole
- Payment of court fees and fines
- Repayment of restitution
- Arrest or conviction subsequent to the original arrest or release
- Prior expungement(s) Many jurisdictions allow only one misdemeanor or felony expungement
If you have pending criminal charges
Pretrial Intervention Programs (PTI)
Many states have pretrial intervention programs for first time offenders, non-violent drug offenders, certain driving offenses and mental health courts to name a few, that provide an opportunity upon successful completion, to expunge misdemeanor and felony charges that otherwise may not be eligible for expungement.
Youthful Offender Act (YOA)
Some states allow young adults, who are no longer considered juveniles under the criminal justice system, to plead guilty to a charge under a Youthful Offender Act. The benefits of this type of guilty plea may include a short sentences (called shock incarceration) and an opportunity for expungement of the charges after successful completion of the program.
If you are innocent of the charges you should need the services of a skillful criminal, you do not have to plead guilty or prove your innocence. The state has the burden to prove to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt your guilt. This is your right. If you are innocent, talk to a competent criminal lawyer! If, however, you are guilty and wish to plead guilty, you should, talk to a competent lawyer, and try and work out a plea bargain to a lesser included offense that does all expungment. This is particularly important to consider when facing a felony charge that can not be expunged.
One often overlooked provision is the option to have records expunged if the charges are dismissed. In some jurisdictions, this is not automatic, If you are arrested and charges are dropped, ask if the arrest will be removed from your record. You may need to follow the formal expungement process but the fees may be waived, and you will have the arrest removed from your record.
If the offense can not be expunged, a pardon from the state's governor is another option to remove the conviction from your record. As with expungements, each state will have different procedures to follow. The effect of a pardon is different from state to state. In one state a pardoned offense may be expunged, while in another state the pardoned record can only be sealed, still in another state the record remains public with the pardon recorded and made a part of the record.
Served your time after felony conviction, now what.
So you were arrested, went to trial, was found guilt and went to jail. You served the time, but you really were innocent, there may be a little hope left. There are innocence project organizations which may be able to help exonerate your name. Another trend is the use of DNA evidence that was collected along with other evidence by law enforcement during the original investigation. Examples may be blood found on clothing recovered from the crime scene or hair inside of a hat left behind by a fleeing assailant. These items may not have been used at the original trial because technology was not widely available, you may be able to have those items tested to compare to your DNA.
Each jurisdiction is a little different as is every circumstance, but a felony expungement may be possible. Research the state laws pertaining to felony expungement procedures for the charge you were sentenced for to determine of you are eligible for an expungement.
Do I need a lawyer?
It may be possible to successfully complete the felony expungment process representing yourself. This is especially true If the process is straight forward, does not require a court hearing, your circumstances clearly allow for the expungment. However, if you are not detail oriented, have a hard time understanding and preparing legal documents and court rules, you should hire a competent criminal attorney.
Felony Expungement Bonus Information
If you get your felony expunged...
Keep an attested true copy of your granted expungement order.
If granted an expungement for misdemeanor charges that were prosecuted in a lower court, check to make sure there are no remaining records at the superior court for the jurisdiction, and vice-versa.
- California Courts: Self-Help Center: More Topics: Criminal Law: Clean Up Your Criminal Record
Guide deals with criminal convictions obtained in California, to assist you in the dismissal expungement process.
- Miami-Dade County - Juvenile Services - Frequently Asked Questions
Frequently Asked Questions Juvenile Services information on juvenile expungments.
- Utah State Courts - Expunging Adult Criminal Records
The Utah Expungement Act governs how to expunge records of an arrest or conviction in Utah, regardless of when a person was arrested or convicted.
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