Every state has its own ruling about ‘expungements.’ Expungements are procedures which remove evidence of a crime from public notice. In some cases, an expungement involves the destruction of a record completely, but in others it involves ‘sealing.’ When a record of a conviction has been sealed, typically it can still be viewed by law enforcement officers, but not by the general public.
Why is expungement important?
A criminal conviction doesn’t just mean fines, possible incarceration, probation and other obvious penalties. Some of the worst consequences happen after a convicted person has served time in jail or prison, paid all his / her fines and is keen to get on with life. The problem is that the conviction can prevent a return to ‘normal’ life. It can prevent someone from getting a good job. It may be a challenge to get promotion. Credit may be harder to get. Foreign travel may be severely curtailed as many countries ask for evidence of criminal convictions before they provide visas.
Then, there is always the possibility that a conviction was obtained based on false evidence or mistaken identity. There have been many cases where a person has been incarcerated for years and only after a dedicated amount of work by friends, family and defense attorneys has information come to light which has led to their exoneration.
Alaska’s stance on expungement
In some states, like Alaska, expungements are generally limited only to juveniles, but in other states, they may be available to adults under strictly limiting conditions.
In Alaska, expungement and sealing are not possible except where a criminal record has been made based on a false accusation or mistaken identity. If this does apply to you, then you can apply to have your record sealed. You will need to fill in a form called “Request to Seal a Criminal Justice Information.”
If your criminal record is based on false information or contains errors, you can apply to get it corrected. You then fill in a form called “Request to Correct Criminal Justice Information.”
If a criminal record is sealed in Alaska after consideration of an application, then it is still available for inspection, but only in very limited circumstances.
Probation does not mean an opportunity to hide a criminal record
In many cases, someone who has been convicted of a criminal offense is released on probation. Instead of jail or prison, they are expected to submit themselves to supervision by a probation officer. This is not the same thing as expungement as the conviction has not been overturned. Probation is still imposed as a penalty for carrying out a crime.
A state pardon by the Governor is the only way that a criminal record can be set aside
If expungement cannot be obtained by the methods stated above, the only other possible way rights can be reinstated is if the state’s Governor grants a pardon. This is a rare event. In fact, the number of pardons that have been granted in Alaska since statehood was established in 1959 is only 188. There have been no pardons since 2006. A pardon is not exactly the same as expungement as although the conviction is “set aside,” it is still kept on record. All sentencing must have been completed for a pardon to be considered including probation and parole. A federal conviction or conviction by another state also bars the person from being considered for a pardon.
Other consequences of a criminal record
Anyone who has a conviction cannot vote until all penalties imposed have been discharged. The same applies to positions of office. Basically, if your eligibility to vote is reinstated you can then be considered as a candidate for public office.
Your right to own a concealable firearm will be suspended on conviction of a felony offense. The suspension will last for 10 years from the date of discharge unless expungement or a pardon occurs. The suspension may be considered permanent if the offense involved an attack against another person. While the suspension is in force, there is another prohibition which is that you cannot reside in the same building as one that has concealable firearms in it. What that means is that if your spouse or friend you live with has a firearm and your suspension is still in force, either you have to move out, or the firearm must be stored elsewhere.
Why a dedicated criminal defense attorney is so important
The details above should be convincing enough to demonstrate that a criminal conviction is a really serious matter that can affect you for the rest of your life, well after you have been punished. Whatever your circumstances, whether you believe you are innocent, or that the charge against you is too harsh or unjustified, it is better to fight the possibility of a conviction. In Anchorage, contact dedicated criminal defense attorney Scott Dattan. You can reach him at his office at 907-276-8008.