If you have been arrested on criminal charges, the record of that arrest can follow you throughout your life. It can cause you serious problems in the job and housing market unless you take steps to get its record removed.
Expunction is one way to help you move on with your life. If you qualify, you can wipe your record clean so that your past does not ruin your present.
The Impact of Past Mistakes
Many arrests are the result of a single mistake or indiscretion. Some people are arrested after getting behind the wheel after drinking. Often one unfortunate run-in with the law is enough to take steps to never commit such a mistake again.
Occasionally an arrest is itself a mistake. Police sometimes arrest people without evidence or based on erroneous testimony. However, even if an arrest is thrown out, its record can still pop up years after the fact.
Arrests are a matter of public record unless proactive steps are taken within the legal system to erase them. The dismissal of charges or the finding of “not guilty” do not result in the deletion of an arrest record. Nor does the completion of a pre-trial intervention program.
Even if you were not convicted of the crime, the public documentation of your arrest can cause problems for you down the road. It can hinder your chances of getting a job, getting a loan, or living where you would like to live.
Sadly, the consequences of a single mistake can have a lasting negative impact. People who have turned their life around can still suffer due to problems arising from their past.
There is hope: it is possible to have all public documentation of a past arrest removed. This process is called expunction. Depending on your circumstances, you may be allowed to go through this process and get these damaging records destroyed permanently.
Here are five reasons why you should look into getting your arrest records expunged.
When you apply for a job, most applications will ask if you have been arrested for a crime. You are required to disclose any arrests which have not been expunged.
Most applications ask about arrests, not just convictions. So even if you were arrested and later found not guilty, you must answer yes. You must also disclose the arrest if the charges were dismissed.
Lying about a past arrest may come back to haunt you. If it is discovered on a background check, your job offer will probably be rescinded.
Going through the expunction process removes the record of arrest. It is like it never happened. You may truthfully respond “no” to the question of whether you have ever been arrested.
An arrest on your record will arise if you apply for a mortgage. It may prevent a bank from giving you the loan you need to buy the house of your dreams.
It may not matter to a bank how many years ago you were arrested, or what you were arrested for.
While a past criminal record or arrest may not completely disqualify you from getting a mortgage, it will open a can of worms. A bank may seek further information to prove you can pay back the loan. They will probably start asking for other personal information about your family, employment and credit history.
If you have purged the record of your arrest through expunction, you do not need to divulge to the bank the circumstances of your past legal issues.
3. Where You Live
A past arrest may also affect your choice of where you want to live. If you were arrested for possession of child pornography or a sex crime, this limits your housing options significantly.
It is very difficult to expunge the record of a conviction for a sex crime or of a crime involving sexual activity with a minor. However, if the charges were dismissed or a conviction overturned, you may be able to seek expunction.
Expunction may not affect your listing on a sex offender registry. It is important to check the laws of your state to determine the rules surrounding those listings.
4. Rental Agreements
Even if you are not applying for a mortgage, a previous arrest may show up in your housing search. Landlords may run background checks which can unearth long ago run-ins with the law.
It is illegal to deny housing to people with criminal records. However, some private landlords and public housing projects have policies against renting to people with criminal records.
Generally, landlords are asked to consider the nature of the crime before denying housing to an applicant with a record. They are also not allowed to use a record as a pretext for denying housing to someone because of race.
However, if you would prefer that long-ago mistakes do not come back to haunt you in your housing search, you should talk to a lawyer to see whether you qualify for expunction.
5. Tuition and Student Loans
Part of getting one’s life on track is finishing one’s education. Finishing college can greatly increase your job chances as well. However, tuition costs can be high.
Many students have to apply for federal aid to pay for their education. Students with criminal convictions on their records, however, have limited eligibility for this kind of loan.
if you were arrested for a drug-related offense on your record, that will further limit your eligibility for financial assistance.
Depending upon the details of your arrest, you may be able to get the record deleted. Getting the public record of the incident permanently removed can increase your chances of success in financial aid applications and scholarships.
Expunction: An Option For You?
Not all situations allow for the expunction of arrest records. A court will usually examine the following factors:
- How long ago was the arrest?
- How severe was the offense for which the person was arrested?
- Was the offender a juvenile?
The court may also consider the extenuating circumstances of the case itself. They may also look at evidence that this was a single youthful indiscretion.
If you can show that you have not gotten into any trouble since your arrest and are a law-abiding citizen, this may be helpful.
Talk to a lawyer about the circumstances of your case to see if you might be eligible for expunction. It could make all the difference in turning your life around.