There are really four main reasons. You’ve got some people who are interested in sealing their record just for peace of mind. It bothers them that they were arrested at some point or that they were convicted of something. They just want to leave the past in the past, even though they’ve never really suffered any consequences. But for most people, it really falls under three other categories. It’s education-related, housing-related, or employment-related.
Starting with education, particularly for drug offenses, a conviction can make a person ineligible to receive federal financial aid if they want to apply to a two or four-year college program. Some universities and certificate programs won’t take people with extensive criminal records. Sealing their record will allow them to improve their educational achievements and move on with their lives.
As far as housing goes, many landlords simply won’t rent to somebody with a felony conviction. Some landlords won’t even rent to somebody with a misdemeanor conviction. So, this can really be the difference between finding a place to live in the city and having to kind of live off the grid and stay with friends or family, things like that.
For people who happen to live in public housing or publicly subsidized housing, there is a prohibition on anybody with a drug conviction on their record living there. Sometimes, even an arrest can stop them from living in a publicly subsidized housing.
For example, you see a lot of cases where a grandson lives with a grandmother and the grandson happens to be dealing drugs out of the grandmother’s house, basement, or apartment and she doesn’t know about it. The police come to raid the house or the apartment and they arrest everybody there. Now, the grandmother has a drug arrest on her record and she loses her housing even though she was totally innocent and had nothing to do with it. She is precisely the type of innocent person whose life is profoundly impacted by an arrest and who could greatly benefit from record sealing.
The last reason that people want to seal their record is for employment and that’s the one that everybody understands. Most employers do a criminal background check before they hire you. They see your record and then people can’t get a job. This will let them get past the conviction or the arrest, find a job, and move on with their lives.
One of the first questions I get from a variety of clients is how this going to affect my job with the federal government? Will this stop me from getting a job with the federal government, and will I be able to get a security clearance?
We have a lot of experience working with federal employees and prospective federal employees on record sealing and expungements simply because government is such a large employer in the area. Many of the people just want to know generally about how a record sealing motion would affect a criminal background check whether it’s for private or public employment.
Also, many people are interested in how long the process is going to take. Many people don’t think to seal their records until right before their record is causing a problem so they think that they’re going to be able to deal with this in the next week or two and unfortunately that’s not the case because this is a six to eight months process.
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