How to clear your Police Record
Most people are aware that a conviction for violating state or federal criminal laws usually results in the individual having a criminal record that can be accessed by law enforcement agencies and by employers or others through a criminal records search. What people may not realize is that a record of an arrest may remain even if the person taken into custody was never convicted of the criminal charges.
Expungement of criminal records
Each state has its own rules pertaining to criminal records. Some states allow for the expungement of arrest and conviction records. Expunged records generally result the individual being free to respond in the negative when asked about a criminal conviction by an employer, landlord or other person or entity.
Although a person whose records have been expunged does not have to disclose the prior conviction or arrest, the record might still be available to courts and law enforcement agencies. The access to expunged criminal records is determined by the laws of each state.
Some states order the destruction of police records that have been expunged, but other states only seal the records. This means they are still available, but they will not be disclosed through a public records search conducted by someone not connected with the government or law enforcement.
Expungement is usually accomplished through a written request to a court. If the individual is meets the state eligibility guidelines, a judge can order the expungement of the records. Some of the factors that could affect eligibility include:
- Whether the person was convicted of committing the crime
- The number of years since the conviction or the arrest
- The severity of the crime of which the person was convicted
- Successful completion of the sentence following a conviction
Limitations on clearing criminal records
A number of states severely limit the ability of an individual to expunge a criminal record following a conviction. Maryland, for example, allows for the expungement of police arrest records only in situations in which the individual is not convicted of the crime for which the person was taken into custody. When there has been a conviction, Maryland will only entertain a request for expungement of the records if the individual is granted a pardon by the governor.
Clearing federal arrest and conviction records
Other than arrests and convictions involving the possession of small quantities of drugs, federal law does not provide the same opportunities for sealing or expunging criminal records as do most state laws. Some federal court decisions have ruled that federal judges possess the power to expunge arrest and conviction records stemming from violations of federal law, but this does not apply in all federal courts across the country.
Navigating the complexities of clearing police records
It is important for a person to know and understand the laws that apply in the jurisdiction in which police records are sought to be cleared. A good place to begin might be a criminal records search to find out the type information that is being kept about a person.
Click here to check other public record resources for Background Check information.