Criminal Law

What does it mean to get your criminal record “sealed?”

Having your criminal record “sealed” (or “expunged”) is the process of having your criminal record made confidential.  If your record is sealed, the documents will be hidden from public view, but will not actually be destroyed, unless the convictions occurred while you were a minor.

However, once you get a conviction sealed, you can legally pretend like it never happened.  For instance, if you’re filling out a job application, and it asks whether you’ve ever been convicted of a felony, you can legally say no if your felony conviction has been sealed.

The process of getting your record sealed:

In Arkansas, the process of getting a criminal conviction sealed is pretty simple.

First, we would file a “Petition and Order to Seal” on your behalf.  To do this, we would need details of the offense, the case information (case number and caption), and evidence that you fulfilled all the conditions of your sentence.

Then, we’d file that petition with the Court that convicted you.  The prosecutor will get notice of our petition, and if they’re opposed to the records being sealed, they’ll file a “notice of opposition.”  If that happens, the Court will hold a hearing to determine whether the conviction should be sealed.  The prosecutor will show up and give reasons why they think it should remain on the books, and we’ll argue the opposite.  If your conviction is a misdemeanor, and the prosecutor doesn’t file a notice of opposition (they usually don’t), the Court isn’t required to have a hearing.  However, the Court is always required to have a hearing when you try to seal a felony conviction, even when the prosecutor doesn’t oppose getting it sealed.

Once the hearing is over, the judge will sign the order sealing your petition and file it with the clerk, unless the prosecutor has some really compelling reason to keep your record public.

There are certain types of convictions which can get sealed, and certain ones that can’t:

If you got convicted of one of the following you can get your conviction sealed:

  • A misdemeanor, or possession of a controlled substance, and you fulfilled all of the conditions of your sentence;
  • A class C or D felony, or an unclassified felony, and have fulfilled all of the conditions of your sentence;
  • Just about any conviction if you were a first time offender, plead guilty (or no contest), and got sentenced to probation; and
  • A prostitution conviction, if you can prove you were the victim of human trafficking.

Even if you weren’t convicted of anything, you can get charges against you sealed if:

  • You got arrested, and the prosecutor didn’t file charges against you within a year; or
  • The charges got dismissed, dropped, or if you were acquitted.

The following stuff is on your record forever, no matter what, even if you were a first time offender:

  • A serious violent felony;
  • Most sex crimes;
  • Delivering a controlled substance to a minor;
  • Any classy Y felony;
  • Class A or B felonies that aren’t drug offenses;
  • Unclassified felonies if you were sentenced to more than ten years in prison;
  • Traffic offenses if you have a commercial driver’s license; and
  • If part of your sentence for a felony involved spending any time in the Arkansas Department of Corrections.

Also, if any of the following apply to you, you can’t get your conviction sealed:

  • You have more than one previous felony conviction;
  • You haven’t yet fulfilled all the conditions of your sentence; or
  • Your case is still open.

Finally, we have to explain that certain background checks will always reveal convictions, even if they were sealed.  If you apply to work for a law enforcement agency, as a teacher, or in a nursing home, even your sealed convictions will show up on a background check.

Come talk to us.  Getting your conviction sealed is easy, cheap, and worth it.

If you have a conviction on your record, don’t let filling out a job or loan application scare you.  We can quickly file a simple petition for you, and most eligible convictions get sealed.  The cost of us filing the petition for you is nothing next to what getting denied a loan or passed by for a job will cost you.

At Wilson and Haubert, we know how scary this stuff can be, and we don’t want you living in fear any more.  Give us a call today, and we’ll get started on the process of putting your past behind you and giving you a fresh start.

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