Cleaning Up Your Criminal Record

Being convicted of a crime…

Everyone makes mistakes, and most of us would like to keep our mistakes private. When an adult is convicted of a crime, a record of the “mistake” is easily accessible to the public, even if nothing appears in the local paper concerning the arrest or conviction.

For many people, the real problem comes years after the criminal charges have been disposed of but still linger in public information, waiting to be found as part of a background check.

Obviously, employers do not look favorably upon an applicant’s documented criminal history when searching for qualified employees. In some career fields certain misdemeanor convictions can prevent a person from obtaining or maintaining a professional license, and for that matter, a job.

What can be done about a past conviction?

The answer depends on whether the conviction was for a felony or a misdemeanor, whether the sentence included incarceration, and whether the conviction was in state or federal court.

In Nebraska, a person convicted of a misdemeanor or felony in state court who does not receive a sentence of more than one year incarceration may have their lawyer file a petition to set the conviction aside. If granted, this nullifies the conviction. However, this does not erase all record of the conviction or its effects. For example, the conviction may still be considered when a person applies to have a subsequent conviction set aside.

Another remedy for state violations

A pardon from the Board of Pardons, a three-member board, comprised of the Governor, the Attorney General, and the Secretary of State. Also, a mayor may pardon persons convicted of violating city ordinances, which are misdemeanors. However, only the Board of Pardons has the authority to fully pardon persons convicted of felonies in state court. A pardon from the Nebraska Board of Pardons also restores a convicted person’s civil rights.

Felony convictions in federal court can be pardoned by the President of the United States. Unfortunately Presidential Pardons are generally rare.

One question I am asked regularly is whether obtaining a pardon or getting a conviction set aside makes it okay for a job applicant to state on his application or during an interview that she has never been convicted of a crime. The answer is relatively simple; just because the conviction was set aside or the person was pardoned doesn’t mean the conviction never happened or that all records of the crime and subsequent conviction disappear. Today, information never completely dies and it is always best to tell the truth.

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