Should I Seal My Criminal Record?
State courts have a procedure for allowing a person convicted of certain nonviolent felonies and misdemeanors to petition the court to seal his or her record. This process is known as expungement. The petitioner usually has to have completed with all the requirements of his or her probation and paid all fines. Some convictions require that you wait at least 5 years before requesting that your record be sealed. Most people will hire an attorney to file the petitions and complete the process for them to ensure that the expungement is completed successfully.
Before filing a petition to the court, you may want to ask yourself whether you should seal your record. The answer depends on your reason for wanting to seal your record. Is it for purposes of a job? Is it to apply for housing? Is it so that you can apply for some type of immigration benefit? These are usually the top reasons for doing it.
Seal Criminal Conviction To Apply for Job Opportunities or Housing?
If the reason you want to seal your criminal conviction is to help increase your chances of getting a job or applying for housing, then you should consider filing a petition. Once you have sealed your conviction, you can legally state that you have not been convicted or arrested of a crime when you are interviewing for a job or for housing.
Seal Criminal Conviction To Apply for An Immigration Benefit?
If the reason you want to seal your criminal conviction is so that you can apply for an immigration benefit, for which you would otherwise not qualify, then you should not try to file a petition to seal your record. Immigration laws are very strict on this procedure and USCIS will not approve petitions from those who have been convicted of certain misdemeanors or felonies even if they have sealed their records for this purpose. The reason is because immigration petitions ask that an applicant disclose whether he or she has ever been arrested or convicted of certain misdemeanors or felonies. These immigration petitions include petitions for Legal Permanent Residency or Deferred Action. A person who chooses not to answer truthfully runs the risk of being charged with immigration fraud. When a person files a petition, he or she will have his or her fingerprints taken and compared to records in several databases, one of which will show that there was at least an arrest or some encounter with law enforcement. If the petitioner did not answer truthfully, the petition will be investigated for fraud, which places the petitioner at risk of not only being denied, but permanently barred from applying again in the future. It is a risk not worth taking.