Simply put, an individual’s criminal record is the list of times that he or she has been arrested for some reason. Some people have no criminal record at all; others have a few arrests on their records for minor offenses like misdemeanor trespassing or reckless driving. Sometimes, however, an arrest in a city like Las Vegas turns a person’s criminal record into a burden that makes it nearly impossible to obtain a loan, rent a house, or get hired at a new job (especially if the offense involved fraud, drunk driving, or theft crimes). If no action is taken to get these arrest listings removed or covered from the record, they will remain there for the rest of the individual’s life. Since criminal records are made available to the public, anyone can look up your name at any time and find out what arrests and convictions are in your past.
Expunging and Sealing Criminal Record
In many states, you can expunge criminal record listings, effectively removing them from your record in all but the most extreme legal circumstances. Unfortunately, the state of Nevada does not offer the option of expunging records. Instead, sealing criminal record entries is the method used to hide them from future background checks. Once sealed, an incident like a drunk driving conviction will no longer be a reason for a business to deny you a job or a loan.
There are some special instances in which a sealed criminal record can be unsealed; this is one of the disadvantages of sealing rather than expunging criminal record entries. Here are some of the most common situations that allow unsealing of records:
- Courts can still view your record if you are being prosecuted for repeating an offense that was previously sealed.
- You can voluntarily reopen your record if it may help you oppose conviction for a different crime.
- A limited number of organizations are permitted to view even sealed records before hiring or granting some types of licenses.
Under normal circumstances, however, a sealed record does not appear on background checks for routine purposes.
Requirements for Sealing Records
The requirements for sealing criminal record entries vary according to the nature and seriousness of the offense in question. In Nevada, misdemeanors like reckless driving can be sealed after only two years, while a felony must remain on the criminal record for up to fifteen years before a petition for sealing can be entered.
- Arrests not resulting in conviction: No waiting period required. Even though you were not convicted of a crime, if the arrest is left on your record it can have an adverse affect on hiring and other opportunities later. The best course of action is to move to have the arrest sealed right away.
- Misdemeanor convictions: Normal waiting period is two years. This includes minor offenses like trespassing.
- Gross misdemeanor and Category E felony convictions: Normal waiting period is seven years. Most DUI convictions fall into this category.
- Other felony convictions: Normal waiting period is from twelve (Categories C and D) to fifteen years (Categories A and B).
Procedure for Sealing Criminal Record
There are many specific steps to follow in order to successfully petition to get a criminal record sealed, and failure to comply with rules and deadlines will result in a rejection of the petition. The fastest and most reliable method for getting records sealed is to get the help of a criminal lawyer who has not only a thorough knowledge of Las Vegas legal procedure, but who also has a reputation and rapport with the authorities. Because sealing of records is always left to the court’s judgment in the end, an established attorney’s clout is one of the most valuable assets you can have in the process.
Once the waiting period has ended, you can submit the petition paperwork and associated fees to the Clark County District Attorney’s office. If the DA signs the petition, the court will probably order the record sealed. Even if the DA does not sign your petition, however, you can request a judicial hearing, and the court may decide to seal the record against the DA’s judgment. Obviously, this process is best handled by an attorney who has experience navigating these difficult legal paths.
One major factor to be aware of is the limit on petitions to seal records. A request for sealing can only be made once, with the ability to ask for two rehearings, and the requests must be made at least two years apart. This means that if a petition to have a drunk driving record sealed is mishandled by an inexperienced lawyer or denied because of a misunderstanding, you will only be left with two more chances, which must be made two years apart, to get the record sealed. If that last effort fails, the record will remain permanently.