How Can I Seal My Criminal Records?

By Ily Goyanes
How Can I Seal My Criminal Records?

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You can have your criminal records sealed with or without the help of an attorney. If time is an issue, hiring an attorney is your best option. If you choose to do it yourself, you will need to make a few visits to the courthouse and fill out some paperwork to request that the court seals your criminal record. It is ultimately up to the court to approve an application to seal criminal records.

Attorney

Decide whether you want to hire an attorney to seal your criminal record or do the work yourself. If you do not have the time to make multiple visits to the local courthouse, or you would rather pay someone else to do it, hire an attorney. Attorney's fees for sealing criminal records average around a few hundred dollars, as of December 2009.

Public Records

If you have chosen to ask the court to seal the records without hiring an attorney and do not have the information on your case, request it at the local public records office. Public records offices are usually located in a courthouse or near a police station. In some cities, you can access the information online by visiting the Clerk of the Courts website for your county. Request records of your case including the arrest form and the outcome (usually known as the court disposition).

Application

Go to the Clerk of Courts office in your city. Request the application packet to seal your records, usually called a "Motion to Seal Records". The application packet will contain one or more forms to fill out, usually called "motions". A motion is an official document requesting something of the court. Refer to the arrest record, and fill in the date of the arrest and the date the case was closed. Depending on your location, you might need to include other information listed in the case report.

Fee

Once your application packet is filled out, your next step is to file the motions at the courthouse where you originally picked it up. The court charges a small fee for this service which can be waived in some states if you meet certain criteria. As of December 2009, the fee to file a Motion to Seal Records is usually under a hundred dollars. Take a check or money order for the exact amount charged by the court unless your municipality has different guidelines.

Hearing

The last step in sealing your criminal records is usually a court hearing. You will receive a notice by mail informing you of the date and time of your appearance. A judge or hearing officer will review your application and approve or deny your request. You are more likely to succeed in your petition if you fill out the paperwork correctly, show up on time for your court date and have no other arrests.

About the Author

Ily Goyanes has been writing professionally since 1994. Her work has appeared in local and national publications, including the "Miami New Times," "Broward/Palm Beach New Times" and "Florida Agenda" newspapers, as well as online publications. She holds a Bachelor of Science with concentrations in film, psychology and legal studies from Kaplan University.

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