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When a person is convicted of a crime, a punishment is assigned by a judge in accordance with the offense. This punishment can include jail or prison time, fines, probation, community service, counseling, and other penalties/requirements as deemed appropriate. Once these penalties are over, a person should be permitted a second chance to live a normal, crime-free life.
Sadly, the shadow of a criminal record can loom large over a person long after the sentence has been served. Criminal records can make living everyday life difficult. Convictions can carry the stigma that a person is untrustworthy, sneaky, reckless, or dangerous.
While records of criminal convictions in the U.S. are nearly always permanent, the consequences of those convictions do not have to be. In 42 states (including New Jersey), a person can have his/her criminal record expunged. The expungement process hides the record (but does not eliminate it). The result of an expungement is that the criminal record will no longer be visible to most people and businesses, allowing a person to get a second chance to live life as though the conviction had never happened.
In New York and some other states, the process is called record sealing. The difference is largely technical: An expunged record is erased from most databases (although not all), whereas a sealed record is maintained but isolated from public view. In both cases, there are very few agencies that can access the record.
No matter whether it is sealed or expunged, the person associated with the criminal record is legally permitted to deny the crime and arrest occurred!
The Impact of a Criminal Record
A criminal conviction can cause a person to suffer consequences far beyond the initial sentence. Some of the ways a criminal record can impact one’s life include:
- Limiting employment opportunities
- Restricting housing opportunities
- Disqualifying one from financial aid
- Being rejected from colleges
- Increasing life, medical, and/or homeowner’s insurance rates
- Revoking of firearm rights
- Losing voting rights
- Endangering immigration status
- Being denied the right to hold public office
- Affecting child custody rights
Why You Deserve an Expungement of Your Criminal Record
Many people argue that a criminal record is a natural part of the penalties for a criminal conviction. In fact, many who are convicted accept this as well. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Reasons a person might deserve an expungement of their criminal include:
- Everyone makes mistakes
- People deserve a second chance
- The individual in question has already served his/her time
- Most expugnable offenses are minor crimes: shoplifting, vandalism, disorderly conduct, simple assault, and minor drug crimes
Are You Eligible for Expungement or Record Sealing of Your Criminal Record?
Each state has different criteria to determine who is eligible to have a criminal record cleared. Typically, only criminal records with non-violent crimes are eligible. For example, as mentioned above, a person with a minor drug possession conviction and/or burglary conviction may be eligible in New York or New Jersey. However, a person convicted of a violent crime such as manslaughter is unlikely to be able to have the record cleared.
Similarly, each state has a limit on how many offenses a criminal record can have before it is rendered ineligible. In New York, for example, only those with one or two convictions can apply (and only one can be a felony offense). In New Jersey, a record with five or fewer disorderly persons convictions can be cleared (or one indictable offense and three disorderly persons offenses).
To determine if one is eligible, it would be wise to first review one’s record with an attorney.
Expungements and Record Sealing Are Good for Everyone (Not Just Those Who Receive Them)
Granting expungements and sealing records for those with criminal convictions benefits more than just those who have committed offenses in the past; it benefits society as a whole in several major ways:
- It boosts the economy. A criminal record makes getting a good-paying and stable job more difficult. When more Americans earn more money they also spend more money into the economy, which creates a cycle of prosperity for everyone. A Harvard Law Review piece showed that those who received expungements saw earnings increase by 20%.
- It reduces crime. Those who have a second chance to live a normal life are less likely to commit additional offenses, according to another Harvard study. Thus, expungements and record sealing reduce crime and make communities safe.
Frequently Asked Questions
Who Should I Contact?
If you or a loved one wants to get out from under the shadow of a criminal record in New York or New Jersey, contact the attorneys of the Rosenblum Law today. Our skilled criminal defense attorneys have helped many people in similar situations. They will defend your constitutional rights and fight to have your criminal record expunged. E-mail or call us today at 888-815-3649.