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Expungements – Clearing Your Criminal History

A pen tip rests on a white piece of paper on top of a yellow folder. The white paper says “Expungement: Do you know about it?” and has two checkboxes for yes and no beneath the question.

Unfortunately, many people judge others based on their past actions. If you happen to have a criminal record, you may have problems finding employment or even housing. Expungements allow someone to clear their criminal history. They have a chance to move forward with a clean slate. However, these legal options do not apply to every crime or situation. To learn more about expunging a criminal record, reach out to the New Hampshire criminal law attorneys at Friedman & Bresaw, PLLC. Call (603) 707-4800 to schedule a consultation. 

What Is Expungement?

Expungement is a legal process that allows someone to erase their criminal record. Similar to sealing a criminal record, expungement’s goal is to give individuals who have shown rehabilitation a chance to reintegrate into society without the burden of a tarnished past. However, the specific eligibility criteria for expungement vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. 

What Is the Difference Between Record Sealing vs. Expungement?

Record sealing and expungement both limit public access to an individual’s criminal record. However, they are applied in different situations. According to the American Bar Association, expunged records are sealed or destroyed from the state or federal record and in effect, it is as though the conviction never happened. These records are inaccessible to the public. Most of the time, they are not disclosed during background checks. 

On the other hand, record sealing is a process where access to a criminal record is restricted or sealed from public view. The criminal record is not erased with a merely sealed record as it is in expungement. Instead, it is made inaccessible to the general public, including potential employers and landlords, while still remaining potentially accessible to law enforcement, government agencies, and other authorized entities, depending on the jurisdiction’s laws. Record sealing is often considered a moderate form of relief compared to expungement. In New Hampshire, however, RSA § 651.5 only specifies that the records pertaining to the expunged conviction shall be removed from the criminal record.

What Offenses Can Be Removed?

The eligibility for expungement depends on the jurisdiction and the specific laws in place. Per the New Hampshire Courts, these are some of the types of crimes that are often considered for expungement:

  • Violations
  • Class A Misdemeanors
  • Class B Misdemeanors
  • Class A Felonies
  • Class B Felonies
  • Felonies under RSA 645:1, II or RSA 318-B:26, II

Each of these types of crimes has its own waiting period that must pass before the individual is eligible to request expungement. In most instances, the waiting period begins after the individual has completed all the terms and conditions of their sentence. Filing an appeal of the initial decision can delay how long the individual must wait before they can file for expungement. 

How Much Does Expungement Cost?

The cost of expungement can vary. Generally, the process involves filing a petition with the court, which may entail associated fees for filing, court appearances, and any providing documentation. The New Hampshire State Police indicate there is a $100 court filing fee, a $100 Department of Corrections Parole and Probation report fee, and a $100 state police administrative fee for removing the files. 

How Long Does a Misdemeanor Stay on Your Record?

After being convicted, many people want to know if the criminal offense will stay on their record. Once again, the duration depends on the nature of the crime and the state’s laws. In most cases, misdemeanors stay on a criminal record indefinitely unless an expungement is pursued and granted. 

If you have been convicted in New Hampshire, knowing your eligibility for an expungement can help you move forward. Reach out to the team at Friedman & Bresaw, PLLC to see if you can get a clean slate. 

Can a DUI Be Expunged?

Driving under the influence offenses are some of the more serious misdemeanors. In many jurisdictions, DUI convictions have stricter expungement criteria due to the potential public safety concerns associated with impaired driving. In some cases, DUI convictions may not be eligible for expungement, especially if they involve aggravating factors, such as: 

  • Accidents causing injury or death
  • Multiple DUI offenses
  • High blood alcohol levels

Individuals in New Hampshire can apply for a DUI expungement 10 years after conviction. 

What Happens During the Expungement Process?

The process necessary to petition for, and receive, a criminal record expungement requires several steps. These steps include:

Eligibility Determination

First, individuals must determine if they meet the state’s eligibility criteria for expungement. New Hampshire takes a broad view of expungement eligibility, as RSA § 651:5-1 provides for “any person” to petition for, and receive, an annulment of their criminal record if the court determines that such annulment “will assist in the petitioner’s rehabilitation” without posing an undue threat to the community, subject to a list of crimes and their circumstances that are considered to render the convicted ineligible for an expungement of their record. Factors weighing against expungement include certain violent crimes and a history of repeated convictions.

Filing the Petition

Once eligibility is established, the next step is to file a petition with the appropriate court. The petition, available from the New Hampshire Judicial Branch, requires detailed information about the conviction, the reasons for seeking expungement, and any supporting documentation.

Notification to Relevant Parties

For expungements of Class A and Class B misdemeanors, New Hampshire law requires the court to provide the prosecutor who tried the case of its decision to annul the conviction. At this point, the prosecutor has 20 days to lodge an objection to the expungement, either on the grounds that the offense is not eligible for expungement or on the grounds that the petitioner has not fulfilled all the conditions of his or her sentence. 

Court Appearance

Expungements may be granted without a hearing in New Hampshire, but a petitioner seeking an expungement of their criminal record may request a court hearing to present their case for expungement. Legal representation may be valuable to advocate for the individual seeking expungement during this stage.

Decision

The court will make a decision on the petition. If approved, the individual’s criminal record will be sealed or expunged. In some cases, the request can be denied due to a lack of supporting evidence. In those instances, the individual may be able to wait and reapply for the expungement. 

Contact a New Hampshire Criminal Defense Attorney

Expungements offer a path to redemption for individuals with a criminal history. While the cost and eligibility criteria can vary, the potential benefits provide a chance to rebuild lives and reintegrate into society. However, expungement can be a complicated process. Some individuals may want to start the process on their own, but legal assistance may be a valuable tool if you have no experience with the process. If you have been convicted of a minor offense in New Hampshire and would like to learn more about expungement, please consider scheduling a consultation with a criminal defense attorney at Friedman & Bresaw, PLLC by calling (603) 707-4800.

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About the Attorney
Jesse Friedman

Jesse has personally represented thousands of clients throughout the State - from juvenile delinquency offenses through homicides. He has extensive trial and litigation experience and has obtained favorable outcomes for thousands of clients throughout the years.

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