What is the difference between expungement and sealing a criminal record?
If you have a felony or misdemeanor conviction on your record, you might be wondering if you should see Andrew R. Lynch, P.C. a Decatur attorney you can trust. If it was the only criminal offense you committed and it did not involve violence, it may be possible to have the conviction removed from your record. There are two ways an attorney in Decatur GA may be able to help you clear your record: expungement and sealing.
What is expungement?
When a Decatur attorney helps a person get a criminal record expunged, it will be like the offense never happened. The entire record is destroyed and can’t be accessed by anyone, even the police. With an expungement, a person never has to worry about their record resurfacing and being seen by someone else. However, not all criminal offenses are eligible for expungement. For example, some states may only allow expungement for misdemeanor convictions. It is important to check with your county’s criminal court to see if your conviction is eligible for expungement or not.
What is sealing?
When a person’s criminal record is sealed, it still exists. However, a sealed record protects it from being accessed by normal means. For example, employers and landlords can’t see sealed records when they conduct background checks. Only a court order can unseal this record for the public to see. Those with sealed criminal records can legally deny that they have ever been convicted of a criminal offense.
While expungement is the preferred option, sealing can a record could still make your life a lot easier. Your record will not be available for public access, so you will not have to worry about an employer or anyone else finding out that you were convicted of a minor crime.
It is possible to expunge or seal your record by yourself, but it is not recommended. The process can be complicated and time-consuming. With a skilled Decatur attorney by your side, you can feel confident in knowing that your paperwork is mistake-free and that you’ve received trusted counsel pertaining to your case.
How long does sealing or expunging take?
If you wish to seal or expunge your criminal record, it’s understandable that you want to finish the process as soon as possible. The length of time it takes to get a criminal conviction expunged or seals may differ from case to case, but it normally takes about four to six months.
To speed up the process, it’s important to turn in your application as soon as possible. If you don’t understand something in the application, you should have a Decatur attorney help you with it. Turning in documents that contain errors can slow down the process and may even get your application rejected.
Why may it be important to seal or expunge your criminal record?
A felony or misdemeanor conviction on your record may affect your life in many ways and shouldn’t be taken lightly. If you don’t have a Decatur attorney help you seal or expunge it, the public can see your record. Here are some of the consequences of having a criminal record:
- Fewer Employment Opportunities: With a felony or misdemeanor conviction, you will not have as many employment opportunities as you once did. A attorney in Decatur GA has seen many people with criminal records get denied jobs. Employers who conduct background checks will see the conviction on your record and may be more wary about hiring someone with a criminal record. They may view a person with a criminal record as untrustworthy.
- Loss of Right to Bear Arms: If you have a felony conviction on your record, you can’t own a gun anymore. This can be especially problematic if you live in a dangerous neighborhood because you will not be able to protect yourself.
- Trouble Securing Housing: A Decatur attorney has also seen individuals with felony convictions have difficulty securing housing, like renting apartments. Many landlords do background checks these days and may deny applicants with felony convictions. They may think individuals with criminal backgrounds will bring criminals to the property and endanger the other tenants.
- Strain on Personal Relationships: A felony or misdemeanor conviction can sometimes negatively affect your relationship with family members and friends. A Decatur attorney has witnessed many personal relationships get ruined because of criminal convictions. Your family and friends may view you in a more negative light and lose trust in you.
- Effects to Immigration Status: If you are a foreign national, having a criminal conviction can negatively affect your immigration status. It may prevent you from obtaining a green card or becoming a citizen.
- Restricted Traveling: A Decatur attorney has witnesses people’s travel plans get ruined due to criminal convictions. If you have a criminal conviction on your record, you might not be able to travel to anywhere you want. Some countries ban entry to individuals with criminal records.
- Revocation of Licenses: Many licensing statuses can be affected by a felony conviction, including attorney, judge, psychologist and public accountant licenses. The agency that gave you your license may revoke it if you get convicted of a felony.
During your initial consultation with an experienced Decatur attorney, he may help you determine if you qualify for expungement or sealing. Some criminal offenses can’t be expunged, but they might be sealed. Your lawyer can look at your individual case to figure out which options may be available for you. Be prepared to answer several questions about your case, such as when you were convicted and whether or not you completed your probation. The more detailed you are in your answers, the better your lawyer may help you.
Do not wait to learn more about getting your record expunged or sealed. If you’ve been convicted of a minor or nonviolent crime, it may be possible to put the entire mess behind you and move on with a clean slate. To speak with an experienced Decatur attorney about your options, contact Andrew R. Lynch, P.C. at (404) 373-7735.