Everyone makes mistakes, although some are worse than others. In many states, convicted criminals may petition the court to have the records of their convictions expunged or erased from public view. It's also possible to ask the court for an order sealing criminal records, such as a conviction, an arrest record or investigation records. Either procedure shields criminal records from public access. They allow an individual to lawfully state that they have never been convicted of a crime.
What is Expungement or Sealing?
Expunging a record means destroying it, or at least denying access to it by anyone except law enforcement personnel or other officials. Sealing records is similar, but it usually applies to juvenile records and in situations where a person has been wrongfully accused, arrested or convicted of a criminal offense.
Many states allow persons who have only one felony or misdemeanor conviction to expunge their records after they have served their time, paid all fines and restitution, and completed their probation and any court-ordered programs. Generally, a few years must pass and the individual must have committed no other crimes during that time. In Alaska, the law does not allow anyone convicted of a crime to have their records destroyed or purged. Unlike other states, the Alaska criminal justice system only permits individuals who have been wrongfully convicted or accused of a crime to request that these records be sealed. If you apply for a job, loan or admission to a school, your record is permanently accessible to anyone performing a standard background check.
Are You Eligible?
The only persons eligible to have their criminal records sealed are those who have been able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that they were wrongfully convicted or accused. This includes instances where individuals were mistakenly identified or when evidence is uncovered later and casts considerable doubt on their guilt. Only under these circumstances and after an order to seal the criminal records is granted may the individual lawfully deny the existence of any record of arrest, investigation or conviction.
The only other available option for someone who has been convicted of a felony in Alaska is to apply to the Alaska Board of Parole for a pardon. Only the governor has the authority to grant pardons, and will do so only if you can demonstrate “extraordinary circumstances." This includes having lived an exemplary life for many years, demonstrating that you are completely and totally rehabilitated, that you accepted your guilt and demonstrated sincere remorse, that your conviction and record has created a substantial hardship on your family, or that a relatively minor offense now subjects you to the risk of deportation and separation from your family who is dependent on you. If you seek a pardon, you must typically wait a number of years after you have completed your sentence and probation, and after you have fulfilled other conditions. Pardons are rarely granted in Alaska. You must demonstrate unusual circumstances, such as outstanding volunteer work or other public service.
A pardon does not purge your criminal record from public access. although receiving a pardon should convince any employer or public license agency that you have been rehabilitated. In most cases, you can truthfully deny that you were convicted of a crime. Your right to own a firearm in Alaska is reinstated, along with your voting and jury service privileges.
Why Consult an Attorney
Alaska’s laws regarding expungement and sealing of criminal records are conservative compared to other states. To get more information regarding sealing your criminal record, or to inquire about the possibility and merits of obtaining a pardon, contact an Alaska criminal defense attorney.