A criminal record can cast a long shadow, often standing between individuals and their dream jobs, even years after a conviction. But what if there was a way to step out from under that shadow and open doors to brighter employment prospects?
The ‘What’ and ‘Why’ of Expungement
Expungement isn’t a word that you hear every day, but it’s an important one in the legal world. By definition, to “expunge” something is to erase or remove it completely. In law, it’s the process of destroying or sealing a state or federal record. It essentially tells the world to treat the criminal conviction as if it never happened – i.e. officially removing it from the individual’s criminal record.
“It is important to clarify that expungement is not ‘forgiveness’ for committing a crime—that is a legal pardon. Likewise, pardons are not expungements and do not require removal of a conviction from a criminal record,” the American Bar Association explains. “In the United States, pardons may be granted by public officials. The President, for example, issues pardons annually. State governors may also pardon certain defendants in their states. Expungement proceedings, however, must be ordered by a judge, or court.”
In almost every case, expungement proceedings take place in state courts. It’s very rare for an expungement order to come down from a federal court. That means expungements are handled slightly differently in every state. Some states have laws about which types of crimes can be expunged versus which one’s can’t, etc.
An expungement is a big deal – and they aren’t just handed out. But in the right situation, they can have a profoundly positive impact.
“Most people don’t even realize how much a criminal record is holding them back from achieving certain goals,” attorney Rowdy G. Williams points out. “They’ve just become used to being turned down. For the right person, expungement can be a game-changer in every area of life.”
The Benefits of Expungement
We could talk about dozens of ways that expungement benefits people, but the reality is that it ultimately comes down to career opportunities and employment. Having a conviction removed from your record suddenly opens you up to jobs that previously were out of reach.
There’s a pervasive societal stigma attached to individuals with criminal records, often leading to assumptions about their character and trustworthiness. Prejudices and biases against candidates with criminal histories can be difficult to overcome, regardless of the nature or severity of the offense.
Certain industries and professions are basically off limits to people with criminal backgrounds. This includes a lot of white collar jobs and careers with high earning potential. As a result, folks with a criminal record often wallow in poverty with no real opportunities for upward mobility.
On the flip side, the fear of judgment can deter individuals from pursuing job opportunities, further perpetuating their struggle to reintegrate into society. This constant rejection and fear has significant emotional consequences that can contribute to feelings of anxiety, low self-esteem, and hopelessness.
Once a record is expunged, everything changes. It’s like having the keys to the kingdom. The results are almost immediate:
- Clean background checks. The immediate benefit is the ability to pass a background check, which is usually the first hurdle someone has to clear in order to be considered for a job. This basically gives the individual a fair footing.
- Increase interview opportunities. Along with the ability to pass a background check comes more job interview opportunities. No more sifting through jobs to find ones that don’t run a background check. People can apply without fear of immediate rejection.
- Increased confidence. Expungement restores a sense of agency, confidence, and self-worth by enabling individuals to present themselves in a positive light during job interviews.
- Control and choice. When someone has a criminal record, they pretty much have to take whatever job comes their way. But with a clean record, it’s possible to be more selective.
Are You a Candidate for Expungement?
Expungement doesn’t happen for everyone. Dozens of factors have to align for it to be a realistic option. But if you believe that you could be a candidate for having your record expunged, don’t hesitate to contact an attorney to learn more about the options in your state. It could change your life!