How long does a misdemeanor stay on your record?
So you did something you likely knew you shouldn’t have, and now are staring at that dreaded (often pink or yellow) slip of paper. You may think “does a misdemeanor make me a criminal?” or “what will my mother think?” but most likely you are thinking “how long does a misdemeanor stay on your record?” The answer, of course, is it depends, however for most adults over the age of 18, the unfortunate reality is that misdemeanors last forever. The caveat here is that you can have misdemeanors expunged, which is a fancy way of saying you won’t have to worry about others knowing what you did, as it will no longer be public record.
Misdemeanors can range from simply trespassing in the old woman’s lawn next door, all the way up to involvement in prostitution, or selling drugs, depending on what jurisdiction you are in. This will be a deciding factor on if it is possible, and if so, how difficult it will be, to get your records sealed. For example misdemeanors such as rape, sexual assault or battery, and nearly anything involving minors will likely be on your record forever. It is also worth noting that certain agencies, such as the department of motor vehicles, and certain procedures such as registering a firearm, will likely require and have access to information pertaining to your criminal record, which will include the expunged misdemeanors. The good news is that after your misdemeanor is expunged you can legally tell employers and creditors you were never convicted of a crime.
The crime itself is not the only deciding factor in your ability to remove a misdemeanor from your records. The misdemeanor must not have required you to serve any prison time (in many states even misdemeanors can be punished by prison time). However, if you were sentenced to a short prison sentence, and were eligible for probation instead, you can have records expunged. It must also be your first and only conviction for the same crime, and you cannot have anything pending or still be on probation, although this excludes more minor misdemeanors such as traffic tickets.
So last, but certainly not least, is the process to get the misdemeanors expunged. Again, this is very different under different jurisdictions; however it is usually not too difficult. If an attorney is hired they can take care of all the paperwork, however this gets costly. Typically it is something you can do yourself, and requires that you make a motion to the court, file a petition, and then fill out a number of forms that describe your case. These forms will have different questions regarding your merits and reasons to seek the sealing of your “dirty deeds”. The court will then make a decision. To find out who to contact and get the process going, simply reach out to your local court house where the charges were filed. Good luck! The question of “how long does a misdemeanor stay on your record” can have many different answers. These answers usually rely on specifics of the incident.