Countless people have been processed through the criminal justice system without any true chance or ability to mount a meaningful defense. They may take the offer on the table and plead guilty because they need to move forward. Maybe they can’t afford to miss more work. Maybe they can’t afford a better attorney. Some people simply fight and lose.
If you have been convicted of or have pled guilty to a crime, your record can follow you indefinitely. Every time a background check is done, your conviction shows up.
Is there a way to get a clean slate so that you can move forward without the weight of an old mistake dragging you down? For most people, this is done through expungement. The court will order any record of your offense to be wiped clean. No longer will you have to answer “yes” to questions asking if you have been convicted of an offense.
The availability of expungement depends on the nature and seriousness of the crime. For most minor offenses, expungement is an option once you have completed the terms of your sentence and have waited 60 days. Certain offenses require a longer waiting period of five years. Examples of these are indecent exposure, driving or boating while intoxicated and domestic battery in the third degree.
For less serious felonies, including class C and class D felony is and some lesser drug convictions, expungement may also be an option, though you must wait five years before petitioning the court.
For more serious felony offenses, such as sex offenses, violent crimes and manslaughter, there is probably no way to get the offense expunged.
There are other options for relief that a criminal defense attorney can pursue, including motions to vacate the conviction or guilty plea in the interest of justice. One ground for such a motion is when evidence surfaces that was not known or available at the time of the original court proceeding. People convicted of violent crimes such as rape or murder have been cleared years later based on DNA evidence. Another scenario is when a witness comes forward or is located who can provide exculpatory testimony. If a defendant was convicted or pleaded guilty without being afforded the right to effective assistance of counsel, that too can be a ground for vacating.