How Long Do Felonies Stay on Your Record?

By Charissa Mennell - Updated June 16, 2017
Closed handcuffs on a wooden background

A person who has committed a felony will have a record that will stay with them for an extended period of time. The exact amount of time depends on the type and class of felony, and the laws of the state in which the crime was committed. A felony conviction, however, does not necessarily mean a life of hopelessness and inability to carry on. A felony conviction certainly does darken a person's record, however there are things you can do to clear up a record over a period of time, and slowly begin to move away from the stigma associated with being a convicted felon. This process often takes patience and determination, and sometimes requires help from a legal source.

Felony Basics

A felony conviction is more serious than a misdemeanor, and often carries punishments of fines and incarceration, among other punishments determined on a case-by-case basis. Two types of felonies are possible: violent and non-violent crimes. Each felony will have a degree ranking, by a letter or number, and that ranking will determine the seriousness of the crime. Regardless of what type of felony you have on your record, you will likely encounter some problems with renting a place to live, obtaining employment and other activities that require a clean record. This is not to say that these things are impossible, it just takes honesty and persuasion that you are not the criminal that your record suggests.

Criminal Background Check

When a prospective employer or renter does a criminal background check, they will be able to tell that you have been convicted of a felony, what the charge was and when you were charged with it. This information is legally obtained by the service that they use, and they can use the information they to determine whether you're eligible for what you are asking. They have the right to use the information to help them determine your eligibility, but by the same token you have a right to explain yourself. If there are extenuating circumstances in your case, or you simply made a mistake and went through a bad period of time, explain that to them and it may make a difference.

Employment

Many places of employment will run a criminal background check before considering you for employment. On most applications, they will ask you whether you have been convicted of a felony within a certain period of time. You have the right to answer whatever you wish, but keep in mind that they may run a criminal background check, and they will find your record. In some cases, they will take your word on your application, other times they will find the information for themselves. More often than not, explaining your case and being honest with the information will create a better result and a more open relationship.

Expunging Your Record

If you are interested in expunging your felony record, you need to do research and see what is required by the state in which you were convicted. All states have various rules that govern when a felony record is available for expunging. More often than not, this requires a time limit determined by your class and type of felony, payment of all fines associated with that crime, an otherwise clean record, among other things. If you have met the requirements, you should contact an attorney and present your case in court. The judge will determine whether they will expunge your record based on your situation. If you do not have your felony record expunged, it will remain on your record forever, making it increasingly difficult to obtain employment and engage in other activities.

Legal Assistance

Legal assistance can be beneficial before or after you are charged with a felony. Beforehand, hiring a criminal defense attorney can make it so that you are charged with a lesser crime, possibly resulting in a misdemeanor or being acquitted of your charges. After the fact, an attorney can help make your case favorable so that a judge is more likely to expunge your record. In either case, if you feel you need legal assistance, contact a criminal defense attorney in your state to help you determine your best course of action.

About the Author

Charissa Mennell has been a professional writer/editor since 2006, with a background in psychology, medicine and law. She has edited several books, including Cover Girls and Kindred, published by Blade Publishing.

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