Past bad behavior should not perpetually mar a person’s future, although it often does. The U.S. criminal justice system punishes criminal behavior and requires people to divulge information about their criminal behavior to potential employers, colleges and licensing agencies. If you have a misdemeanor on your record, you may be able to seal or expunge that record. The specific process varies slightly by state, but the general process is relatively uniform.
Check your state police department and ask whether expunging of records is even available. Not all states allow you to remove a misdemeanor from your record. New York, for example, has no expungement process for those convicted of criminal behavior.
Ask the clerk at your state police department about the eligibility requirements for expungement. If your state allows records to be sealed, you must determine if you are eligible. For example, in Michigan, you must only have one offense on your record, and you are not eligible for expungement until five years have passed since your conviction.
Obtain an application or a petition to dismiss, expunge, seal or remove the misdemeanor. Once you determine you are eligible for expungement, you must fill out a form requesting the court to seal or remove the record of your offense. The application will vary by state; check with your state’s justice department about where to find your state’s form.
Fill out the form truthfully. Most forms will require you to explain the circumstances surrounding your misdemeanor offense and will require you to state whether you have been convicted of any other offenses.
File the completed form in the court that sentenced you. Follow any other state-specific procedures. Your court will explain any other procedures you must follow (such as serving a copy of the petition to the state prosecuting attorney’s office). Comply with these procedures and the timeline/instructions given by the courts.
Once the form is filed, it is up to the court to decide whether to grant your petition. Provide the court with any documents that will help it make its decision (such as evidence of volunteer work, affidavits that testify about your good character, etc.).
The law often changes and is filled with potential pitfalls for those seeking to handle their own legal problems. This article is not intended to provide you with legal advice. You are strongly encouraged to seek the assistance of an attorney in your area.