What Is Expungement And Why Do People Want To Expunge A Criminal Record?

Interviewer: What is an expungement?

Matthew Nebeker: Expungement is a process that a person who’s been convicted of something goes through to have the conviction taken off their record or erased from their record. When an employer or a school or someone is doing a background check on the individual, it will not show on any official records, any official databases like the Bureau of Criminal Identification here in Utah or the FBI database, or things like that. It’s a process to have that conviction taken off those databases, essentially.

Reasons for Expungement

Interviewer: Why would someone want to expunge something? What would be the advantages?

Matthew Nebeker: A lot of times, people go through the court system and they have a conviction on their record. They’ll be applying for a new job or they’ll be switching careers. Something in their lives will require a background check. The individual has to list it on any kind of application, whether it’s for a professional license, contractor’s license or getting into certain schools. These convictions can disqualify people for these opportunities in their life.

The biggest reason I see people wanting to get an expungement is so they can move forward and make progress. Essentially, it’s taking this episode in their life and legally and officially acknowledging by a judge that it’s behind them now. They don’t have to list it on these applications and go through the process of explaining why they have this conviction, what happened, and things like that. It just streamlines the process, so to speak, for someone who’s trying to move on and change their life and better their life.

Implications of DUI convictions on employment

Interviewer: It goes without saying that with a particular kind of conviction, employers are going to be a little bit discriminatory about it. Would you say that DUIs are still something that people would discriminate over?

Matthew Nebeker: I tend to believe that. I’ve talked to a lot of professionals in Human Resources that are looking at applications. You have two qualified individuals and you lay down their applications side by side and you see that one individual doesn’t have any legal issues, any criminal problems, or prior convictions. You look at the other one and you look at this person and you see a conviction for DUI or drug possession or something like that. Then, yeah, I think it’s going to make a difference to that person who’s making the decision.

Mostly, on applications, like I mentioned earlier, if you don’t have it expunged and you have to list that conviction, they want an explanation. They want to know the circumstances, how much your fine was, if you were on probation and if you successfully completed it and things like that. If it’s expunged, you don’t even have to put it there, in most cases.

Sealing of records vs. Expungement

Interviewer: When someone talks about getting a record sealed, how different is that from getting it expunged?

Matthew Nebeker: In Utah, it’s similar. It’s the same thing, essentially. You can’t petition the court to have your record sealed. Maybe you can do that in other states, but it’s essentially the same thing. There’s a petition for expungement. It has to be filed with the same court that the conviction was entered in. Essentially, the expungement process will seal the record or erase the record, so it’s kind of the same thing, with just some different terminology. The expungement is the process you go through and the result is you could say, “The record is now sealed.”

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