A criminal arrest can seriously impede your success in life. Even if the courts found you to be not guilty, the fact that you have an arrest record, that you were a defendant in a criminal case, particularly for a felony, makes it harder to get a job and to obtain licensure for certain professions. An immigrant may face deportation and his or her status application denied if there's an arrest record. Who would not want to seal their arrest record or make it disappear if they could?
Under certain circumstances your criminal arrest records may be sealed or expunged. To expunge something means to wipe it out, obliterate it, erase it, and that's what happens with expungement. While state laws vary, typically an expunged record is actually physically destroyed. A sealed criminal arrest record is literally sealed in an envelope and locked in a secure place without access. Whether your records are expunged or sealed, the effect is the same: no one can legally access your criminal record without a court order.
You must file an application for expungement with the courts. You do not have to hire an attorney to do this for you, but it may be worth it. Experienced attorneys know the laws and procedures to follow in their states and how best to get an application through the court system successfully.
In Florida, for example, you can have your arrest record expunged if the charges against you were dropped, if you were found not guilty, if the charges against you were dismissed, or if the court decides not to file charges against you. As long as you were cleared of the charges either by being found not guilty or by having your case dismissed, dropped, or not filed, you may be able to get your record expunged. If you pled guilty or no contest or have been found guilty, you may be able to have your arrest record sealed if the judge "withholds adjudication," which means the court found you guilty but did not convict you. You may have to be on probation or perform community service, but if your arrest resulted in "adjudication withheld" your record may qualify for expungement. There are exceptions, and that's where an experienced attorney can be of assistance.
In Florida there is no statute of limitations on expunging or sealing past arrest records. An individual can, however, get an expungement or sealing of a criminal record only one time. Certain juvenile cases or cases of mistaken arrest can be expunged without being considered as your one opportunity for expungement.
Under certain circumstances you may have to reveal your criminal record even if it has been expunged. These situations include, among others, applying for legal or criminal justice work or applying for jobs working with children, the elderly, or people with developmental disabilities. While there are some limits to the effectiveness of sealing or expunging your criminal record, it the majority of situations it can give you a new lease on life; you can resume your life with a clean slate.
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Chris Robertson is an author of Majon International, one of the worlds MOST popular internet marketing companies.
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