An expungement proceeding is a civil action to have a criminal record sealed. Once an individual’s criminal history is expunged, they can, for all intents and purposes, deny the existence of the criminal conviction and criminal history to those who inquire into the individual’s background – with certain exceptions.
Computers Make Criminal Records Available to All
Criminal records did exist in various forms over the years, but for the most part, because of the difficulty involved in obtaining that information, it was accessible only to law enforcement and government agencies. As technology advanced, computers became available to everyone. Enormously large criminal record databases from the federal government, as well as all 50 states – and also from many countries around the world – were catalogued and made available to virtually anyone who seeks access. Because of this easy access, there is more of an interest now than ever before in expungements.
Expungement Laws Evolved Over Time
Eventually, legislators became sensitive to the difficulties that faced those with misdemeanor and felony backgrounds. Over time, state legislators responded with expungement laws. Not surprisingly, every state that allows expungement has its own particular laws and procedures. Because laws vary tremendously from state to state, there is potential difficulty for individuals who have had their records expunged in one state and who move to another state for school, employment or other reason. The biggest concern is whether one state recognizes the expunged record from another state. Nevertheless, expungement offers a solution to a difficult situation – for those who qualify.
Various states offer convicted offenders the opportunity to expunge their criminal records. The reality is that the records always exist at some level; the expungement simply allows the applicant to deny a conviction. For example, an individual with an expunged record will be required to reveal that information upon application to law school or upon application to take the state bar exam. Expungements do help but the effect is somewhat limited by nature. Still, an expungement can provide individuals with opportunities that were not available prior to the expungement.