Having a criminal record can put you at a decided disadvantage in many ways. Disclosing an arrest or conviction is often required, but it can make you lose out on career, housing and educational opportunities. A criminal record can also cost you big in the workplace: research indicates that those with a criminal history have a more difficult time finding jobs, and may be paid between 10 and 40 percent less for the same work than otherwise similarly situated co-workers.
You don't have to simply roll over and accept the ongoing impact of a long-ago mistake, however. It may be possible in certain circumstances to clear your criminal record through the process of expungement.
What is expungement?
Expungement is the destruction of legal records relating to an arrest, guilty plea, trial or conviction. Simply put, this process makes it like the arrest or conviction never happened. After a successful expungement proceeding, you'll be able to truthfully answer "no" when asked if you've ever been arrested or charged with a crime.
Not every record of arrest or conviction is eligible for expungement, but there are certain circumstances when expungement is generally an option. These include but are not necessarily limited to:
- Minor-in-possession of alcohol (after the subject reaches the age of 21, he or she can request expungement as long as certain conditions are otherwise met; see Missouri Revised Statutes 311.326.1)
- 10 years after a single arrest, guilty plea or conviction on the charge of driving under the influence of alcohol (so long as the subject has had no additional arrests for DWI in the meantime; see Missouri Revised Statutes 577.0054.1)
- Records of arrests made under false pretenses/information where no charges were filed and no probable cause exists that the individual seeking the expungement actually committed the crime (see Missouri Revised Statutes 610.0122.1)
- People who were previously convicted but later found to be actually innocent based on DNA testing (see Missouri Revised Statutes 650.058.1)
As stated, there may be other situations in which expungement of an arrest record or criminal history could be appropriate. Given the stigma that still exists in some circles about a crime on your record, it is certainly worth exploring whether expungement is available. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help you determine if it is an option after hearing the unique facts of your case.