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What happens when you expunge a criminal conviction?

Imagine that you have just committed a criminal offense, and over the next few weeks, your case plays out in court. You are convicted of the crime, and as a result, you spend some time in jail. Upon release, you are on probation. You pay some fines and penalties relating to your criminal conviction in the months that follow, and then once your probationary period is closed, you think you've finally made it past this difficult chapter in your life.

But as you try to rebuild, you notice that all of your job applications go unanswered. Every apartment you try to get rejects you. You can't vote in elections, and your bank account has dried up due to all of the fines and penalties you had to pay in relation to your criminal conviction. As a result of the conviction permanently being attached to your record, it haunts you forever.

 

These are the indirect consequences of a criminal conviction. Your criminal history dramatically impacts your ability to live. So what can be done? How do you rid yourself of that criminal history so that you can show everyone that one mistake doesn't define who you are forever?

An expungement of the charges can be a tremendous help in this regard. Expunging a criminal charge doesn't completely remove it from your record -- but it does hide it from most organizations and people. Usually, an expunged charge will only be revealed if another crime is committed by the person in question. The charge will be "sealed" by the expungement, but "unsealed" if another crime is committed so that prosecutors and the court can confirm and prove that another crime was committed in the past.

While the conviction is "sealed," though, you could see a dramatic improvement in your ability to attain work, find places to live and, in general, change your life for the better.

Source: FindLaw, "Expungement Basics," Accessed Aug. 27, 2015

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