Expunging a Criminal Record – What Convictions are Not Eligible, and What You Should Do

Anyone with a criminal record knows it can really cause problems in terms of employment, housing, obtaining (or keeping) a professional license, and more. While there are many criminal convictions that can be set aside or “expunged” from your record, there are also some convictions that are ineligible for expungement. Essentially, for those whose conviction qualifies, your public criminal record can be set aside – this simply means you will have a clean record should a potential employer, landlord, lender, or someone else perform a background check. iStock_000003118029_Large (2)

Which criminal convictions cannot be expunged from your record?

Basically, a conviction for those crimes considered the most serious or heinous cannot be expunged from your record. These convictions include:

  • Terrorism offenses
  • A felony or attempt to commit a felony offense for which the maximum punishment is life in prison, regardless of the number of years you were sentenced to
  • Second- or third-degree CSC (criminal sexual conduct)
  • Fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct if you were convicted after January 12th of 2015
  • Human trafficking
  • Any traffic offense, including OWI (operating while intoxicated)
  • Assault with intent to commit criminal sexual conduct
  • Possession or production of child pornography
  • Second-degree child abuse
  • Felony conviction for domestic violence, it the convicted individual has a prior misdemeanor for domestic violence

As of January 12, 2015 the laws regarding expungement of criminal records for adults has changed. Now, an individual may petition to have one felony conviction set aside or expunged if that person has been convicted of no more than one felony and a maximum of two misdemeanor offenses.

Additionally, if your conviction is eligible to be set aside, there are rules that apply. For instance, you must wait for a period of five years from the date you were convicted, completed probation, were discharged from parole, or released from prison, depending on which is applies in your situation. If you have applied to have your criminal record expunged previously but were denied, you have to wait three years from the date your application was denied to apply again for the same conviction.

What to do if you were convicted of a crime and that conviction cannot for any reason be set aside?

There is no doubt life is made much more difficult when you cannot have your criminal record expunged. However, there are a few things you can do that could make life easier even when you have to deal with a criminal history. For instance:

Make sure your rap sheet doesn’t paint a picture that’s even worse than it actually is. A rap sheet is a record of your criminal history; rap actually stands for “Record of Arrests and Prosecution.” There are many instances in which errors exist on a rap sheet, so it’s important to obtain a copy of your criminal history and have an attorney review it. You can also visit http://reentry.mplp.org/reentry/index.php/Cleaning_Up_Criminal_Records for further self-help information regarding your rap sheet.

Emphasize the positive. Whether you’re applying for a job or trying to rent/lease a home or apartment, it’s important to show evidence that you are working toward rehabilitation. it could be that you completed treatment for alcohol/drug abuse, obtained your GED while in prison, or the fact that you have not committed or been found guilty of any additional crimes for a period of years.

Carefully answer questions about your criminal history. Just because you have been convicted of a crime doesn’t mean the answer is “yes” when questioned on an employment application. Carefully read the application; most ask if you have ever been convicted of a felony. If you have been convicted of a misdemeanor, you can honestly and legally answer “no” when asked if you’ve been convicted of a felony. However, if you HAVE been convicted of a felony, be forthcoming and answer honestly. If an employer learns by performing a background check that you lied on your application, it will likely result in your not getting the job. You could also get fired if a company employs you only to learn later that you have been convicted of a felony although you answered “no” on your application. If you are terminated, being dishonest on your application could result in the loss of unemployment benefits as well.

Learn about your rights. Even those with criminal records have rights when it comes to education, employment, benefits, housing, and more. You can find out about rights you may not be aware of at reentry.mplp.org.

If you have been convicted of a crime, it’s vital to your future to find out if it may be possible to have your criminal conviction set aside, or your criminal record expunged.