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Federal Conviction, Criminal Records and Expungement

criminal-defense-150x77Depending on a state, a job applicant may not have to reveal any or some types of potentially damaging information, such as arrests not resulting in convictions or convictions for minor matters. Some states have procedures to judicially “erase” a criminal record. A criminal defense attorney can help determine whether you may be eligible to get a conviction sealed, expunged or otherwise legally minimized.

Criminal records are technically public records, which means that anyone can access them. Public records are those records which are available for public inspection. These records are often offered for free to the public for review at the location where they are stored. In other cases, they may be available for a small fee. Public records are often named according to where they are kept, or where they originated.

Obtaining a Criminal Record

The procedure for obtaining a criminal record varies depending upon the jurisdiction which holds the record, and the purpose for which you require the record. For example, if you are trying to obtain a criminal background check of yourself, for purposes of applying for a job, security clearance, or professional license, you will probably have to have your fingerprints taken by a local police agency, then submit original copies of your fingerprints to the state, provincial, or national police force where you reside along with a fee. The police agency will then check your personal information and fingerprints against known criminals, and will report back to the potential employer or licensing agency with either the expression that you don’t have a criminal record, or a recitation of your public criminal history. In the United States, depending upon the purpose of the record check, you may need to separately request records checks from both the state police and FBI. (Some employers will submit the records check requests, rather than requiring you to submit the requests yourself.)

Florida Criminal History Information

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE), Division of Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS), is the central repository for criminal history information for the state of Florida. In addition to maintaining criminal history information, it is our responsibility to provide public access to this information when requested (source, read more).

Expunging a Criminal Record

When a criminal record is “expunged”, in most senses the record is treated as if it does not exist. There are limits to expungement – for example, some states maintain separate registries for people who have been convicted of child abuse or sex offenses, and the expungement of a criminal record may not affect those registries. Also, for some subsequent purposes such as applying for a job which requires a government security clearance, the odds are very high that the employer will discover the full criminal history so it may be best to admit having an expunged conviction when applying for such a job.

People seek expungement for a variety of reasons. Some simply wish to remove an embarrassing blot from their personal history. Others want to have their right to vote reinstated, in a state which suspends voting rights for convicted felons. Some wish to have their right to possess a firearm restored, so that they may go hunting. Some require an expungement in order to be eligible for desired employment. As a general rule, chances for successfully obtaining an expungement go up with the demonstration of need, and with evidence of complete rehabilitation.

Expungement is not the only option available to people who wish to clear their criminal records. Most jurisdictions have systems whereby people can apply for pardons. While an expungement is typically issued by the court in which a person was convicted of a crime, a pardon is an executive action which can partially or fully lift the effects of the conviction. Another option is to seal a criminal record, although this usually occurs only with juvenile records (and sometimes even then only if they stay out of trouble during their first few years of adulthood). In some jurisdictions, juvenile records are sealed automatically, while in others it is necessary to bring a motion within a certain number of years of adulthood in order to have the record sealed. It is very unusual for the criminal convictions of adults to be under seal.

Finally, it may be possible to bring a “collateral attack” on the conviction, to try to have the conviction set aside. Usually, this is a difficult process, involving a separate court action which must be commenced within a limited period of time after the conviction is entered.

Obtaining a Pardon

The system of applying for a pardon or executive clemency varies significantly between jurisdictions. Generally speaking, if your jurisdiction has a more generous expungement law, your first recourse should probably be under that law. If your jurisdiction has a restrictive expungement law, or if you do not qualify, you may consider applying for a pardon as an alternative. As with expungement, some jurisdictions have relatively liberal policies of issuing pardons to people who evidence rehabilitation, while other jurisdictions are very restrictive.

For U.S. federal convictions, pardons are issued by the President. In states, pardons are issued by the governor, with varying levels of control and influence over the pardons process given to state pardons boards. If your conviction is for a U.S. military offense, you will have to apply for clemency with the branch of the military which issued the conviction before you can apply for a pardon with the President.

Ordinarily, your pardon application will include extensive personal information, an explanation of the facts of the offense for which you wish to be pardoned, your other criminal history (if any), your rehabilitation, your residences, financial, and employment history, and affidavits from people who know you about your present good character. Ordinarily, you must serve out your sentence in full, including any term of probation or parole, before you will be considered for a pardon.

West Palm Beach Criminal Defense Attorney

To better protect yourself throughout your involvement with the criminal justice system, consult with an informed, knowledgeable criminal defense attorney. Your lawyer can work hard on your behalf to see that protections afforded criminal defendants are preserved for you.

Free consultation 24/7: Call West Palm Beach criminal defense lawyer Andrew D. Stine, P.A. at (561) 832-1170. Se habla español.

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