A Certificate of Eligibility comprises one part of the expunging and/or sealing process. Some states allow those convicted of crimes to petition for the expunging or sealing criminal records. This legal process helps citizens achieve a measure of stability in their personal and professional lives after convictions that may damage reputations. The question of how long it takes to expunge a record with a certificate of eligibility depends upon a handful of variables within the process.
Expunging and Sealing
The process of expunging or sealing allows individuals to erase or seal past criminal records for both juveniles and adults. In order to petition courts for the expunging or sealing of a record, citizens must allow a predetermined time to elapse following the conviction, sometimes as long as 10 or 15 years. The amount of required depends upon local laws and the type of crime in question. Generally, states make it easier for citizens to expunge juvenile records than adult records. The severity of the crime in question also affects the difficulty and length of the process. The authority to expunge and seal records lies entirely with judges.
Certificate of Eligibility
In Florida and Utah, courts require the obtaining of a Certificate of Eligibility in order to begin the process of expunging or sealing a record. The Certificate of Eligibility serves as a form of official notice testifying that the individual holding the certificate proves eligible for the expunging or sealing of a record if a judge sees fit to grant such action. The Certificate in no way guarantees the expunging or sealing of a record. A number of things may disqualify someone from receiving a Certificate, including a history of violent crimes, drug or alcohol-related felonies, a vehicular manslaughter conviction and outstanding fines or fees associated with a conviction. Courts respond to requests for a Certificate of Eligibility within 30 days of receiving all the required paperwork.
Petition to Expunge or Seal
A Certificate of Eligibility grants permission for petitioning the courts for the expunging or sealing of a record. Once filed, a copy of the Certificate goes to the prosecutor and/or victim of the crime in question. These parties hold the right to file a petition against expunging or sealing a record within 30 days of receiving the Certificate, though also hold the right to recommend the expunging or sealing of a record if so desired. Judges hold the right to call parties involved in the case to court for testimonials and may set dates for hearings and decisions within reason. This process may take as little as 30 days and as long as six months. Other states, such as Illinois, Arizona and Massachusetts, allow for some form of expunging or sealing, but do not provide documents called "Certificate of Eligibility."
The question of how long it takes to expunge a record with a Certificate of Eligibility comes down to the complexities of the case. A clear-cut case with recommendations to expunge from the prosecutor and/or victim may take as little as two months from the date of filing for a Certificate to the granting of the expunging. A case with petitions from the prosecutor and/or victim, or instances in which judges require additional information and testimonials, may take as long as seven months from the date of filing for a Certificate to the final judgment.
- Florida Department of Law Enforcement: Expunging and Sealing FAQs
- Utah Department of Public Safety: Expunging Eligibility
- Office of the Illinois State Appellate Defender: Expungement Information
- Arizona Law Help: Expunging or Sealing Records Article
- Utah State Legislature: Expungement Act
- Richard Hornsby Law Offices: Frequent Questions on Sealing or Expungement
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