Sealing Your Criminal Record
Guest Writer and Attorney, Chloe Roane
This is a brief overview about sealing criminal records in Arkansas, but it isn’t intended to be a comprehensive guide, nor does it serve as legal advice. As always, we are here to help and inform. In some cases, sealing your record can mean the difference between a job and unemployment, so let’s take a closer look at what all of this means.
Why Seal Your Record?
When a potential employer sees a record of arrest or conviction on your record, they don’t get the full story. Even if you were illegally searched or seized, mistaken for someone else, or simply in the wrong place at the wrong time, you may not have the opportunity to explain this to your potential employer before they move on to a candidate with a clean record.
However, when your record has been sealed, with a few exceptions, the contents or existence of a sealed record cannot be disclosed to the general public. Of course, there are certain circumstances in which the record may be released in a limited way to certain persons: one example is that the courts will be able to view your record; another is that prosecutors may view the records for purposes related to criminal justice. There are other specific examples of when your record may be revealed during a background check, or where your criminal record cannot be treated as never having occurred. If your petition to seal is granted, you should discuss these examples with your attorney in depth.
What Can Be Sealed?
You may petition to seal an arrest, a case that did not lead to conviction, and certain misdemeanor and felony convictions. The sealing of a conviction happens only after you have completed the terms of your sentence. You may petition to seal a record of a prior arrest, but only if charges have not been filed by the prosecuting attorney within one year of the date of the arrest.
Sealing Misdemeanors – You may be eligible to petition to seal your misdemeanor 60 days after you have completed your sentence. This includes paying all court costs, fines, fees, and includes driver’s license reinstatement or suspension fees, if they applied to your case. This also includes, but is not limited to, completing all terms of your probation or parole, and all court ordered community service.
A misdemeanor usually can be sealed 60 days after completion of your sentence. However, there are some misdemeanors that cannot be sealed until 5 years after completion of your sentence. Generally, misdemeanors that cannot be sealed after 60 days involve violent crimes. To determine if your misdemeanor conviction can be sealed after 60 days, consult a lawyer.
Sealing Felonies – Certain felonies may be sealed five years after completing your sentence. However some felonies are not eligible for sealing, including felony sex offences. Even if you seek to seal an eligible felony, if you have more than 1 previous felony conviction, you may not be eligible for a sealing.
You should speak with an attorney to be sure that you understand all the effects a sealing could have. Sealing statutes can be very difficult to navigate, and if a petition is sent to the court and rejected, you may have to wait another year before you are eligible to resubmit a petition to seal.
What Happens After the Petition is Filed?
After the petition is filed, the prosecuting attorney gets a chance to object to the sealing. If the prosecuting attorney objects to the sealing, there’s a chance you will attend a hearing. In either case, the court then considers the petition, and will either grant or deny the sealing.
If you have any questions regarding sealing a record, our newest attorney in NWA and guest writer Chloe Roane would be happy to speak with you.