An expungement erases all references to a criminal charge from the public records. As a result, potential employers and others performing background checks will not see the charge. Job applicants need not disclose expunged charges or convictions.
With an expungement, a criminal defendant can enhance the prospects of finding work, renting a house or apartment, and avoid being disqualified for permits.
While requirements vary by jurisdiction, generally a Letter of Reference for Expungement is not required to clear a charge that ended with an acquittal or dismissal. By contrast, many convictions cannot be expunged. However, in some states, less serious crimes can be cleared from the public record.
The Process for Getting an Expungement
Depending on the state, a judge or court order is required to expunge a criminal proceeding, including a conviction. The process starts with a petition, or request, to the court to expunge the particular criminal case. In most states, the clerk or court records office carry forms to make the request.
Upon filing, the petitioner undergoes a criminal background check. With the criminal record review, the court determines matters such as whether the petitioner has already received an expungement or has a prior criminal conviction that disqualifies the petitioner.
The Letter of Reference
Expunging a criminal conviction usually requires, as part of the petition, character references to tout the applicant's good behavior and reputation. Normally, these references cannot be a spouse, parent, son or daughter, or other relative of the petitioner.
Instead, those seeking expungements may find a former co-worker, friend, teammate, clergy member of the petitioner's church or house of worship, a teacher or even a former employer.
The character reference either takes the form of an affidavit or a Letter of Reference for Expungement. In the writing, the person providing the reference states that he or she knows the petitioner, the relationship or how the petitioner is know, that the petitioner is of good behavior and has a good reputation in the community. Additionally, the letter may include facts about the petitioner.
The reference letter should avoid criticizing the judicial system or the judge and avoid questioning the conviction.
Sample Letter of Reference for a Person Seeking Expungement
(Name of Person Writing Letter)
(Date of Letter)
The Honorable (First, Last Name)
Judge of (Circuit, District or other Court Name)
(Address of Judge)
RE: (Name of Defendant) – Expungement of Misdemeanor Larceny Charge
My name is _______________. I am over the age of 18 years old. I am not related by birth or marriage to the petitioner.
I have known the petitioner since __________ The petitioner attends church (or synagogue or mosque) at ____________. He volunteers at the local soup kitchen twice a week and has done so for three months. During the little league baseball season, the petitioner helped me coach the team. The parents and I have appreciated his work. I also see the petitioner help people in need.
I have not seen the petitioner use illicit drugs, become intoxicated, or engage in dangerous or improper behavior. To my knowledge, the petitioner has not engaged in criminal activity.
I am familiar with his general behavior, character and reputation. The petitioner exhibits and otherwise is of good behavior and character in the community. He has a good reputation in the community. I do not consider him to be a threat to the community in which the petitioner.
I offer this letter in support of the petition to expunge the petitioner’s conviction for ________________.
(Name of Person Writing Letter)
By Andre Bradley