If you make a mistake that results in a criminal record, that mistake can follow you for the rest of your life. It may make it difficult for you to get a job or rent an apartment. In some cases, you may be eligible to have your record expunged so it does not turn up on a background check. The state of Oregon only allows you to do this for certain types of convictions and with certain limitations.
What Are Expungement and Record Sealing?
Expungement destroys your records. They cannot be accessed because they no longer exist. Record sealing blocks them from being accessed by members of the public, such as an employer doing a background check. They still exist, however, and they may be reopened for good cause, although this usually requires a court order. The two terms are usually used interchangeably to refer to sealing without destroying.
Are Your Records Eligible?
In general, Oregon allows you to expunge only certain types of adult records:
- Convictions for violations, misdemeanors or class C felonies. You must wait three years after your conviction and you must have completed your sentence at the time you file.
- An arrest with no charges filed. You must wait one year after your arrest.
- Records related to charges that were dismissed or of which you were acquitted. You may do this without any waiting period.
You may not have records expunged for sex crimes, child abuse or traffic offenses. DUIs cannot be expunged. In addition, you must not have another conviction within the 10 years before filing or have other criminal charges pending.
Juvenile records can be expunged five years after your last contact with the juvenile court. You must not have any charges pending or have been convicted of a felony or class A misdemeanor, among other requirements.
How Does the Expungement Procedure Work in Oregon?
To begin the expungement process, you must file your request with the court where your case took place and send a copy to the prosecuting attorney's office. Along with this copy, the prosecutor needs an original fingerprint card to confirm your identity with the state police. Once confirmed, the prosecuting attorney either recommends for or against your request. The prosecuting attorney will also notify your victim, who may make a statement at your hearing. The judge then makes the final decision and the court sends the order to the state police. The entire process can take anywhere from a few months to about a year.
Will a Pardon Clear Your Record?
A pardon is forgiveness of a crime, and it restores any legal rights you lost because of a conviction. It does not prevent anyone from knowing about it, however. It may be your only option if you cannot qualify for expungement or if your request was denied.
To apply for a pardon, you must send copies of your application to the district attorney and the state parole board, among others. Only after notifying these offices can you mail your application to the governor. The governor has up to 180 days to make a decision but is not required to rule at all. If 180 days pass without a decision, you must start the application process all over.
Should You Hire a Lawyer?
Understanding the eligibility rules and procedures for filing your petition for expungement can be challenging. The facts of your case are unique and laws change frequently. To ensure you are following current law, it is best to consult with a criminal lawyer before filing.