All of us, no matter how upstanding in every aspect of our lives, will occasionally make a mistake, and these mistakes occasionally lead to trouble with the law. A late night fight at a bar or a DWI arrest after one-too-many drinks can lead to serious charges of a misdemeanor or felony.
An arrest can be followed by attorney fees, court costs, probation, and perhaps one of the most exasperating punishments in the American Criminal Justice system: the clinging shadow of a criminal record.
Having a criminal record can affect every aspect of your life. You might see your mugshot appear on the internet or newspaper, and gossip about your situation may become the new norm with your family and friends. The worst may be that when asked in any job interview about a past criminal record, you will have to say “Yes, I have one”, and give an explanation as what your criminal history is all about.
This can be like torture for people who’s criminal past is out of character with their true personalities, and can seem incredibly unfair and a cruel punishment for a mistake that only happened once. Should you have to walk around with this ball and chain for the rest of your life? Is a human being greater than any one single decision (often made while drunk)?
Luckily, there is a legal procedure called expungement. Expungement is the clearing of your criminal record so that you can legally respond to the question about your criminal history with a resounding: “I don’t have one.” It’s like a reset button for your criminal past that will likely remain under seal for the rest of your life.
Expungement in Connecticut can happen in several different ways. According to the Connecticut Criminal Code, your record can be erased if “you were charged with a crime but found not guilty, your case was dismissed, the charges against you were dropped (‘nolled’) at least 13 months ago, or your case was put on hold (‘continued’) at least 13 months ago and there has been no prosecution or other disposition of the matter.”
Your record can also be expunged as a pardon, that is, if you have a misdemeanor conviction and have waited three years, or if you have a felony conviction, and have waited five years. For more information about expungement in Connecticut, visit this website.
Everyone makes mistakes. Some people get lucky and others get caught. It can be an incredible hardship to have to pay all of the associated costs and fees of a legal case, to have your license taken away or even to have to spend time in jail. But knowing that you will have to mention your criminal history in job interviews can make finding a job very difficult. Because criminal background checks allow people to see your criminal history, honesty is the best policy in this regard. You can at least know that expungement will provide for a certain amount of relief, even though you may have to wait.