When you have a criminal record, it can inhibit your daily life in major ways. Fortunately, options exist which may allow you to lessen the impact.
This can include expungement. But what is it? How does it work? What are the benefits and any potential downsides?
What is expungement?
Washington State Courts discuss the process of expungement, or the sealing of records. In essence, expunging records means that they get locked away and essentially no longer exist, unless someone does an extremely deep dive on your history.
This frees you up in terms of what you can and cannot do. For example, expunged records do not typically come up in an average background check for employment or housing viability.
Not every person is eligible for expungement. Some crimes that are not eligible include crimes involving children, sexual assault or intentional murder.
The benefits of expungement
The greatest benefits involve the fact that your records get hidden from most state systems. After an offense gets sealed, you can also legally claim that the offense did not occur, but this is not always suggested as employers may view it as a lie if they discover expunged records.
The drawbacks of expungement
The biggest potential drawback is the fact that records do often still exist within private companies. Law enforcement also always has access to all of your records, including any that got expunged.
This can make things like restoring your gun rights harder to do. However, it is not impossible, and is still easier to take action with an expunged record than without.