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FAQs About Expungement

Q: What Are The Biggest Misconceptions Or Misunderstandings People Have When They Are Looking To Have Something Expunged?

A: The first one is that they think that they can do it immediately after the conviction. They don’t realize that there has to be a certain period of time that has to pass before they’re eligible for the expungement.

Another misconception is they don’t realize that multiple offenses can invalidate their ability to get an expungement, and sometimes people will try to do it themselves and maybe they can but for the most part, it’s really not a matter of legal know-how on the simple expungement; it’s a matter of being set up to process all the required paperwork that’s needed to affect an expungement in the way the court needs it done.

One more misconception that people have is they think it’s going to happen right away. They say, “I’m going for an interview right now; can you get this done in two weeks?” No. It’s typically going to take about four months for an expungement to get through the process because of all the different departments that have to weigh on it. So, that’s why you want to speed the process up by having as much information as you can.

Q: What Happens If Someone Is Not Eligible To Have Their Record Expunged? Is There Anything Else They Can Do In The Way Of The Law To Have It Sealed Or Protected?

A: No.

Q: What Would Be Some Other Reasons That An Expungement Would Either Not Be Granted Or Someone Would Not Be Eligible?

A: It would be based on the crimes, based on the time since the arrest. Those are the two reasons why someone would not be granted or eligible for expungement.

Q: What Happens If Someone Were Doing It Themselves, Not Following The Protocol?

A: Not following the protocols you have to send, everything you do has to go out by return, receipt requested now and you have to send the green cards over to the court and if they don’t get them within a number of days, they are going to reject your application. That’s why you have to be set up to know what you’re doing and prepare to get the court what it needs within a certain number of days.

Q: If Someone Is Able To Actually Have Something Successfully Expunged, What Does Their Record Look Like? Is There Any Indication Of It?

A: There is not going to be anything on there. It’s not going to say that it was expunged; it’ll be something where the courts and police can see it on their systems but it’s not going to indicate that anywhere else.

Q: If Someone’s Record Is Successfully Expunged, Do They Receive Any Court Document Or Certificate? If Yes, How Important Is That Actual Document? How Are They Alerted That The Expungement Has Actually Been Approved And Processed?

A: Yes. We’re going to get a court order signed by a superior court judge, which then gets transmitted to the state police. The state police then sends the defendant a letter that the database has been cleared of that arrest. So, this is something that you definitely have clearance on.

Q: When Someone Is Pulled Over By An Officer And The Question Comes Up, ‘Have you been convicted of the crime,’ Are They Obligated To Tell The Officer That They Have Been Arrested Or Convicted Of Something And It Has Been Successfully Expunged?

A: No, they’re not. Once a matter has been expunged, as far as the law is concerned, you have never been convicted. A police officer would not ask someone about a criminal offense as a result of a motor vehicle stop.

The bottom line is that legally, and on the job application as well, if you’re asked, “Have you ever been convicted,” you can legally say, “I have never been convicted.”

It’s not just that they can’t find it in the background; you can legally deny ever being convicted because it’s as if it never happened. And a lot of people feel intimidated when they are in contact with law enforcement and they feel they must know everything, but that’s not required.

Q: What If Someone Is In Front Of A Judge Who Knows About The Prior Record Or Conviction And They Are Charged For The Same Thing, Is That Going To Be Treated As The Second Offense In Terms Of The Sentencing Or Does That Revert Back To A First Offense?

A: No, it’s there; it’s not taken off of the table as far as sentencing purpose. It’s still there for that purpose.

Q: What Is The Best Way For Someone To Ensure That A Successfully Expunged Record Has Really Been Expunged? What Are The Ways To Check That?

A: There are tons of online background check services. Just go and run your record there or have an FBI background check performed and make sure that you’re clear out of the database.

Q: Why Should Someone Hire An Experienced Attorney To Help With The Expungement Versus Doing It Alone?

A: Getting it done right, getting it done the first time so that you’re not doing it two, three, four times, increasing the chance because time is something that is important in these matters and you want to have it done right. You want to make sure it’s taken out of all the databases, you want to make sure that the court approves it.

If you think you might be saving some extra money by doing it yourself, you might actually be spending time redoing things anyway.

Q: What Are Some Expungement Cases Attorney James Abate Has Handled That Have Successfully Gone Through? How Have The Lives Of These Clients Changed And Improved Because Of It?

A: Yes. People’s lives are improved from just a therapeutic to an employability basis to such an extreme degree that it almost shocks you. First of all, there are people who had been prevented from owning a firearm, who want to go out and they love to hunt and they’ve been prevented from doing it for a decade or so and they go ahead and do that.

There are people who have essentially been held to the most minimal pay scales and been unable to find a good job for years who suddenly can start moving their lives forward again. There are people who are embarrassed to even apply to coach for Little League because they’re afraid they are going to pop up on a background check, they’re going to get that email that says, “We’re sorry, you can’t coach because you couldn’t pass a background check.”

So the embarrassment, the lack of employability, loss of credit, the inability to own or rent an apartment, are all the basic things that everybody wants and without that, it really pushes people further into a life of crime and the life of just bad decisions.

So, when you can get people to have that criminal record off their back, you’re suddenly able to improve their lives a lot.

If you need answers to more questions regarding expungements, contact the Law Offices of James A. Abate for a free initial consultation at 908-643-7005 and get the answers and information you’re seeking.

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