Getting involved in a criminal case by facing charges can affect your entire future. Even if the charges were eventually dropped and you were found innocent of any wrongdoing, the record is open to the general public. Anyone wishing to do a background check can find the criminal record that can affect your chances of getting an education, job, apartment for rent, or mortgage. However, the law permits eligible people to get their record erased like it never existed. And restart life with a clean slate.

You’ll Check for Information About the Laws in Your State.

Different states have their regulations regarding the procedures for getting an “expungement” or “expunction,” as the process is called. Others allow you to have the records sealed, which means that anyone looking for information about your past would have to get a court order to see the record. This criminal history is also called a “Record of Arrests and Prosecution” or RAP sheet. Alternatively, some records are sealed, but any new arrest or charges can reopen the previous history as prior offenses. 

Several Factors May Influence Your Chances of Getting an Expungement

Do keep in mind that not only do states have their laws about sealing or expungement, but the definitions may also differ or change over time. You should get in touch with an experienced attorney for information on applying for and getting your record erased. Several factors can influence the court’s decision to accept or reject your application. Like, for instance, the nature and severity of the charges or the time elapsed since the charges were filed. Judges may also check for the defendant’s overall records and whether the offense was awarded jail or prison time and fines. 

How State Laws Differ

Although the possibility of expunging records is available, you’ll contact the court having jurisdiction over your case and apply to initiate the process. Some courts may require you to pay the fee along with the application and send copies of the request to the prosecutor and law agency handling your charges. The state of Oregon requires a cost of $80 for conducting the police fingerprint check in addition to court charges. The prosecutor and victim are entitled to look into the applicant’s background and request a hearing in court. It could be a while before the investigation is complete and the judge accepts your expungement request.

In the state of Georgia, you’ll complete a form that has three sections to be filled by the defendant, arresting agency, and public prosecutor. The arresting agency levies a fee of $50, and you’ll also pay $25 by check to the Georgia Crime Information Center once your request for expungement is accepted. Other states may have their processes and working with an attorney raises your chances of getting your record cleared permanently. 

If you’ve been wrongfully accused of a crime, or if the incident was an honest mistake, working with an experienced expungement lawyer could clear your record and get back your life.