The process of arrest record expungement varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but typically there will be processes in place for anyone to apply for sealing or clearing his or her arrest record. Because the rules vary so heavily from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, the best starting point for the applicant is to ask the local Clerk of Courts to provide him or her with all the pertinent information with regard to arrest record expungement in the jurisdiction. Generally, the success of arrest record expungement will depend on the offense for which the applicant was arrested and whether or not the applicant has maintained a clean criminal record since the arrest.
Typically, someone who was arrested and charged with a crime that is not murder, rape, or sexual assault may have their record cleaned if the applicant meets certain criteria. Generally the most important requirement is that the applicant finish serving the punishment levied, if any, on him or her from the arrest. The applicant must have also paid any fines or made any restitution due from their crime. Last, they must not be charged or on probation for a separate offense. These are generally the guiding factors, so it is important that the applicant collect and organize any and all documentation that indicates the criteria have been met.
Even in jurisdictions that allow arrest record expungement under the above circumstances, just meeting the criteria is not a guarantee that it will be granted. Most jurisdictions still grant a high level of discretion in the judge as to whether or not to allow the applicant’s record to be sealed. In other words, the applicant’s surrounding circumstances will often affect the judge’s decision on the matter, for better or worse. Therefore it is important that the applicant present himself or herself in the best light. There is no real way to hide any subsequent trouble from the judge who is presiding over the applicant’s case so the most important thing is that, as soon as possible, the applicant should act in the manner of an upstanding, law-abiding citizen.
If arrest record expungement is granted, most jurisdictions have protections in place for citizens who have had their record sealed to ensure its effectiveness. The main benefit in these jurisdictions is that private employers cannot question the person for whom expungement has been granted about prior arrests or convictions that have been expunged. Typically though, even after arrest record expungement has been granted, the person for whom expungement has been granted will be required to disclose this information to government agencies to which they are applying for employment.