What’s the one thing that could last longer than your college loans? How about the reckless endangerment conviction you received during college when you were caught trying to make a free throw shot, with a watermelon, from a moving vehicle, at 2 A.M., after a frat party? For better or worse, you may, whether because of the foolishness of youth or because of a bad night on the town, have a criminal record. Luckily, in many states, there is a process whereby a person can remove a past criminal conviction from their criminal record. Since a criminal conviction, no matter how old, can have a serious effect on job opportunities and educational pursuits, getting your past criminal convictions removed from your record (referred to as sealing or expungement) may be an important legal proceeding for you.
Although the process of getting a criminal record sealed is different in every state, Nevada’s process offers a general explanation. The first step of the sealing process is to request a copy of your criminal background report from the Nevada Department of Public Safety. That record will show every conviction you have in the State of Nevada and the name of the court you were convicted in. The next step is to get a calendar and see if enough time has passed since your conviction for you to get it removed. The length time that has to pass depends on how serious your conviction is (from two to fifteen years) and, during that time, you cannot have received any new convictions since the date of the conviction you want to have sealed, except for minor speeding tickets.
If enough time has passed since your conviction, the next step is to find out the court in which you were convicted and the prosecuting office that convicted you and submit a completed petition to seal your record to both the court and the prosecutor. For example, to get a misdemeanor from the Mesquite Municipal Court sealed, you would send your petition to the Mesquite City Attorney and the Municipal Court. If the prosecutor does not oppose the sealing (which is usually the case), the court will issue an order sealing your record and send it to the police, the prosecutor, and the Nevada Department of Public Safety. Once your record is sealed, you can generally answer that you have never been convicted (with some exceptions) of any crimes in response to questions about your criminal history.
Although the records sealing process is a powerful way to ensure that the misdeeds from your past do not prevent you from building a successful future, there are some things it may not be able to do for you. Domestic violence crimes have some pretty significant consequences (particularly with the federal government) which sealing the record of your conviction may not be able to undo. Also, some crimes carry cumulative consequences (such as a DUI) which mean that the time period you have to wait for sealing is extremely long (seven years for a DUI).
Getting your criminal records sealed may be an important way to move forward in your life and improve your employability. A discussion with a competent lawyer in the jurisdiction where you have a conviction can help you decide whether you should file a petition to seal your criminal records.
Clifford Gravett is a local attorney with the Virgin Valley law firm of Bingham Snow & Caldwell located in Mesquite. The firm serves clients in Nevada, Arizona, and Utah (702-346-7300 / www.binghamsnow.com). Is there a topic you’d like to see discussed in a future article? E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.