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Wiping Clean A Criminal Record

Expungement a free ride? If you have a criminal record that continues to haunt you after you satisfied your debt, don’t you deserve a second chance. Criminal records are an important part of our society but information flows too easily.

With an estimated 26% of the US population carrying some kind of criminal past, it’s time to take a fresh look at how society might benefit from the purging of many of those criminal records and provide a second chance to millions of good citizens. Criminal record relief, while not a new concept, takes on a greater importance in this era of free-flow information and ready access background checks.

For a small fee, often as little as , virtually anyone with a computer can do a background search on another individual. The results can make a difference in securing a job, renting a home, entering military service, coaching a Little League team, teaching Sunday School, or more. If you have ever been charged with an infraction, misdemeanor, or felony – even if not convicted – some public record probably exists. Once an offense is entered into the “system” by a local jurisdiction it may be sold to record resellers who parcel the information off to companies who specialize in background checks. What this means is your information, now public record, is scattered across a wide one-way path that becomes extremely difficult to keep updated.

Relief from the burden of a criminal record is controlled by statute in the jurisdiction where the offense took place. With over 3,100 jurisdictions in our fifty states, the rules for relief vary significantly. Factors effecting eligibility such as length of the waiting period and the type of relief available are inconsistent. Typical relief includes expungement, sealing and destruction of records, conviction set-aside, and certificates of rehabilitation and/or pardon.  Most require a decision by a judge after review of the original case. For some misdemeanors, relief may occur automatically if the proper procedures are followed. A pardon requires the signature of a State’s governor while a Federal pardon must be approved by the President of the United States.

The value to the individual with the past offense is that criminal record relief may restore him to the position he enjoyed before the offense was committed. It often allows the ex-offender to answer “no” when asked by a prospective employer if he has ever been arrested or convicted. However, most violent felonies especially those involving sexual offenses, armed robberies, and capital cases are not often approved.

It is important to understand that criminal records serve a vital and useful purpose. Background checks provide vital red flags at a time when liability fears run high.  On-the-job violence and workplace theft are serious problems for society. Arguably, an employer should know any relevant facts about a potential new hire.  It’s not hard to guess the outcome when faced with the choice of hiring someone with no criminal record versus someone with one who is equally qualified.

The gray area of this controversy revolves around the nature of the offense. How serious was it?  How long ago? For example, should a recently laid-off 40

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