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How Long Before a Felony Can Be Expunged?

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As felons know, a federal conviction can follow them for the rest of their life as long as it remains on their record.

One way to deal with a felony record is to seek to have a felony expunged.  Under this, a felony can be dismissed from their record along with the consequences that go along with it.

A felony expungement will show that they were rehabilitated and keep potential employers from viewing the felony on their record.

This blog post will cover how long it takes before a felony can be expunged.

  • Eligibility to Have a Felony Expunged
  • Effects of Having a Felony Expunged
  • Steps to Take
  • Supporting a Felon After an Expungement Decision


Eligibility to Have a Felony Expunged

Not everyone is eligible to have a felony expunged from their record.  Most first time felons can have a felony expunged.

Unlike clemency which can be granted by the President of the United States, in the case of a Federal felony, or the governor or Pardon Board official in the case of a state felony, expungement is granted by the governor of the state where the conviction occurred.

Each state has its own laws regarding felony expungement.  It will be essential to review this process for a particular state before proceeding.  Having legal counsel will be important in this process.

Felons must have completed all aspects of their sentence.  They must have been out of prison anywhere from five to ten years, depending on the state before being eligible to apply.

They must also have finished probation and not owe any fines or restitution resulting from their felony.

Those felons who have the best chances for expungement are those who have only a single felony on their record.  If they have a lengthy legal history of misdemeanor convictions, their chances to have their record expunged will be diminished.

The nature of the original felony also makes a difference.  Felonies that are usually not eligible for expungement include sexual crimes, child pornography, crimes in which the victim is younger than 18, and many violent crimes.

Felons must have maintained a clean record since being released from prison.

They must have remained free from drug or alcohol dependency for at least one year and been rehabilitated according to the court, if that was a part of the original sentence.

Felons must have obtained a high school diploma or GED.  They must also have completed at least one year of community service, according to the court.

It is also easier to obtain expungement if felons can document how they have improved themselves since their release through education, training and work experience.

Effects of Having a Felony Expunged

Felons with an expunged record must still make their records available under particular circumstances.

They must be made available to a licensing office when attempting to obtain a license to carry a firearm and to law enforcement when felons are involved in a criminal investigation.

They are allowed to be viewed by federal, state, or city employers when applying for a job related to investigation or prosecution of people under civil or criminal statutes.

Many states allow consideration of expunged records for jobs in courts or within the juvenile legal system.

In some states, felons who want to apply for jobs such as public school teachers, corrections officers, or police officers may have their expunged records accessed.

When applying for professional licenses, such as law or medicine, agencies are allowed access to those records.

In many states, felons can receive an expungement only once.   After that, such records cannot be sealed again.

If felons are arrested for later crimes, the seriousness of the new crime may become higher if there is a prior conviction.  This includes crimes that have been expunged.

Just as an expunged record is considered in determining the seriousness of a crime, it will also be evaluated when determining the sentence if felons are convicted of a new crime.

They will be considered a repeat offender.  Prior offenses, even though expunged in states that have a third strike rule for more extreme sentencing, such as California, will always remain considered.

If an expungement is not granted, felons will be informed of the reason for denial, the steps they can take to reapply, and how long they have to wait to reapply.

Steps to Take

The first step in the expungement process is to file a petition with the court in the jurisdiction where the felony was committed.  A copy must be sent to the District Attorney in that jurisdiction.

The District Attorney must respond to the petition with a recommendation to the court within sixty days.  The court considers information from the applicant and from the D.A.

The court will consider whether the eligibility criteria have been met and if granting the expungement will have a negative effect on public safety.  Felons are then notified of the outcome.

If expungement is granted, all records pertaining to the crime would be sealed with the exception of publicly available court opinions and documents related to appeal.

Felons would no longer be required to reveal information related to the felony.  Their new status would not disqualify them from any profession.

A nonpublic record of the conviction would still be maintained by the Department of Justice for any later legal action.  When applying for a job, felons can honestly answer no when asked if they have ever been convicted of a criminal offense.

Supporting the Felon after the Expungement Decision

Families of felons who seek to have their record expunged, should support their efforts.

For families of felons who have had their record expunged, reinforce their persistence and the challenges they faced in going through the expungement process.

If they can work hard enough to accomplish that, they can achieve so much more.

Remember to prepare for a good or bad outcome.

Felons shouldn’t lose hope if their felony is not expunged.

For families of felons who have been turned down for expungement, continue to be there and be supportive.  Do not allow your loved one to give up and return to a life of crime.  Help them live the right way.

So what do you think about this blog post about how long before a felony can be expunged?  Have you or someone you know been through this process?  What was that like and were they successful?   Please tell us in the comments below.

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