There are many benefits of having your criminal records expunged. The past can return to haunt and prevent you from achieving your goals.
Unfortunately, many people do not know that it’s possible to have some of their criminal records expunged forever.
When you commit a crime, the fact that you did so does not necessarily have to be a permanent part of your record. Instead, you can ask the court to either seal or expunge the conviction from your criminal record.
Sealing a Record
Sealing a record means that no one with merely public access can see your record. The file is locked up tight unless one obtains a court order.
Expunging a Record
To expunge the record means to erase the fact that it was a part of your history at all. It could be suggested that if you wanted a complete reset with no chance of your past coming back, you would want to pursue getting the record expunged and not just sealed.
Crimes that can be Expunged
Not all crimes can be expunged. In fact, if you were convicted of a felony the process is much more difficult. If you were convicted of a violent felony, anything to do with harming a child or minor, or the crime was sex-related, you won’t be able to expunge it from your record.
Anything other than these crimes, however, has a chance of being expunged by the court. Your chances increase even if:
- the crime was committed while you were a minor,
- the crime was relatively harmless or minor in nature,
- whether or not all the court requirements were met, and
- how long ago the crime was committed.
Getting your record expunged shows a commitment to starting over, and is worth pursuing in the effort to give yourself a fresh start and more opportunities. Whether that be getting a job or finding a place to live.
All in all, getting your record expunged is at least something to think about, and below are listed a few reasons why.
No One Will Know About Your Criminal History
With a quick Google search, it’s easy to learn about almost anything or anyone. Thanks to the Freedom of Information Act, if someone has enough information on you, they can look up whether or not you’ve ever been arrested and what the crime was.
This can make life difficult for you, especially if you’d rather people didn’t know about your criminal history.
Having your records expunged essentially means they’re locked away where no one is able to find them, especially not with a Google search or a dig through your own social outlets, assuming you never bothered to post about it. You don’t have to divulge the details of your arrest, or even admit that it even happened, to anyone.
Easier to Get a Job
Most employers do a background check on prospective employees before hiring them as a way to know who they’re working with. While this is certainly a good idea and practice, on the other side of things, it can also make getting any sort of job while having a record next to impossible.
Jobs like teaching, or child care in general, various careers in the medical field, law enforcement, and, this one feels rather obvious, within the government at any level, all become barred to someone with a criminal record.
If any of these careers were dream careers for you, pursuing criminal record expungement will make obtaining one of these jobs much more possible.
Some jobs will still have the ability to see the record was there, but again, depending on the crime, you still have a chance.
For most jobs, however, after getting your records expunged, you’ll be free to say that you’ve never been accused or convicted of a crime and not worry about it showing up on your background check.
Get Public Assistance
A crime can stop you from being eligible to get the assistance that you need, such as food stamps and public housing.
These are lifetime bans as well, meaning waiting for the conviction to be spent after ten years won’t apply. However, if you have your criminal records expunged, then you can still apply for assistance.
You won’t have to worry about going without the things that you need because you have a criminal charge on your record.
Easier to Find a Home
It can be harder for you to get a home or apartment if you have a criminal record. Landlords do a background check before allowing anyone to rent from them, and may deny you because of a criminal record.
It can also be harder for you to get a mortgage. Many lenders also assume that someone who has a criminal history will default on their loan.
Without a criminal record, neither of these things would be something you would have to worry about anymore.
Peace of Mind
Nearly 70 million Americans have some sort of criminal record. For a number of these people, that takes away their right to vote, own a firearm, obtain a license, or in general have to worry about what they are and are not allowed to do.
Having a criminal charge hanging over your head can be stressful and weigh you down. The effects of a criminal conviction can have adverse effects on your mental health, leading to things like PTSD and emotional distancing.
While the topic of mental health and how to heal psychologically is a much more complicated problem, it doesn’t have to continue with the knowledge that your record is out there and hanging over you. Pursuing a way to erase it from your records can be very freeing, especially as so many opportunities suddenly open back up to you.
Final Words on Having your Criminal Records Expunged
If you’re still on the fence over whether or not trying to get your record expunged is worth it, think about what you’re missing out on and what you’re currently being denied.
Depending on the charge, a criminal record has the power to unnecessarily follow you for the rest of your life if you allow it, and as a result, there are several opportunities currently being denied to you.
Wouldn’t it be better if they weren’t? If you were allowed to live without having to worry about whether or not you’ll be denied a job, a home, or public assistance because of a mistake you’ve already paid for? You will have peace of mind knowing that no one will have to find out about your criminal history.
Kara Masterson is a freelance writer from West Jordan, Utah. She graduated from the University of Utah and enjoys writing and spending time with her dog, Max.