In some states, after completing a court-ordered punishment, an offender can ask for his or her record to be expunged. Expunging a record basically seals it from the public. Even though expunging a record is considered to be beneficial to offenders, there are limitations to it. Here are some of the limitations to expunging a record.
1. It Is a One-Time Solution
Some states only allow you to request that your criminal records are sealed once. If you commit any other crimes after that, those records will be available to the public to view.
2. Prosecutors Can See the Records
Even though the general public does not have access to your sealed records, prosecutors can ask and receive permission to review your records. Prosecutors need the information on your records to determine if this is your first time committing a particular crime, or if it is a subsequent offense. In some instances, committing a certain crime again can lead to enhanced charges.
For instance, there is a big difference in how a first-time DUI is viewed and how a third or fourth is handled. By gaining access to your criminal records, the prosecutor can then offer a plea that is required for a third or fourth time conviction as opposed to a first time offense.
If your case goes to trial, it is possible that the prosecutor can use your record against you to help build his or her case. This can make it tougher for you to make the case that you are innocent of the crime you are accused of committing.
3. Government Agencies Can View the Records
If you applying for a position with a government agencies, there is a possibility that your sealed records can be viewed as part of the background screening process. For instance, an agency reviewing your application for a gun permit could view your records and use it to reject or deny your request.
It is important to note that the ability to access your criminal record as part of background screening is not just limited to government agencies. In some professions, the ability to view records is maintained. This usually applies to public school teachers and law enforcement careers.
A criminal defense attorney can help you with determining how much access to sealed records are allowed in your state. Knowing the limitations to your expunged record, you can start thinking of methods for lessening the effect of it on your life.