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Does an expungement mean your record is gone?

You had a criminal record, but you're interested in having it expunged. You've heard that this erases the record and makes it look as though you never ran foul of the law.

This is true, to some degree. Having the record expunged basically just means that it's sealed. It's still there, but people can't see it. You can, in most senses, act as if you do not have a criminal record.

For instance, many people are interested in this process because they've found it hard to get a job. Applications may ask about their arrest records or employers may run background checks. They keep getting passed over for people who do not have records.

An expungement will work in this type of case. You're not lying to say you have no criminal record when applying for most jobs. If the employer runs a background check, it typically will not come up.

However, many law enforcement agencies and similar government agencies can still see your "sealed" files. They'll know that you had a criminal record, even if it was expunged. You can point out that it was sealed, but don't be surprised when they know about it.

In this sense, the idea that your record has been completely erased -- which is what many people believe happens during an expungement -- is just a myth. It's not entirely gone, but it won't impact your life in the same way it did before.

If you're considering expungement, be sure you know all of the proper legal steps to take to make the process go smoothly.

Source: FindLaw, "Expungement Basics," accessed Jan. 19, 2018

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