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Criminal defense: what is expungement?

If you have been found guilty of a crime, you may notice that even after dealing with all the penalties associated with the crime, whether it was fines, time in prison or a license revocation, that your criminal record is a dark cloud following you affecting other facets of your life as well.

Having a criminal record may cause additional hurdles to you later in life. It could affect where you are able to work, and even, depending upon the nature of the crime, where you are able to live. In most states however, including the state of Washington, it may be possible to have your arrest or criminal record expunged. So, what exactly is an expungement?

Having your arrest or criminal record expunged means that it is sealed, or unofficially erased. Generally speaking, this means that if investigators or others are doing background checks on you, the arrest or criminal record will not appear. It does not, however, mean that it is permanently removed from your history. It is just not viewable to the public.

The courts, authorities and government agencies including law enforcement, will still have access to the record. In addition, if you are facing new charges, previously expunged arrests or convictions can still be used as part of your criminal history. The process of having your record expunged varies by jurisdiction and is dependent on several factors including the nature of the arrest and your history. It may be helpful to speak with a local law firm familiar with criminal charges to see whether you could possibly have your record expunged.

Source: FindLaw, "Expungement Basics," Accessed June 19, 2017

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