If you have a criminal record in Washington, DC, you may be eligible to have your arrest record sealed. Determining your eligibility and petitioning the court to seal your record is a complicated procedure, but a DC record sealing lawyer can provide invaluable assistance. A record sealing attorney in DC will be familiar with the intricacies of the process and can help you.
Record sealing is sometimes referred to as an expungement, but they are not the same. An expungement results in the destruction of all records relating to your arrest. Sealing results is the destruction of some records, but various law enforcement agencies and courts are authorized to maintain a non-public copy of your file.
The DC Council has only authorized judges to seal records, rather than fully expunge them. A successful motion asserting actual innocence will result in relief more similar to an expungement than one based upon the interests of justice.
If your criminal record reports an arrest in the District of Columbia that did not result in a conviction, you may be eligible to have the record of that arrest sealed by proving you were factually innocent of the crime for which you were arrested. Common non-conviction dispositions include: “no papered” (the government declined to file charges after your arrest), “dismissed by the court or government,” and “not guilty at trial.”
In order to seal your arrest record on grounds of actual innocence, you must petition the court, which entails filing a motion asserting:
The standard of proof by which you must prove your innocence varies depending on how much time has elapsed since the date of your prosecution, if any, terminated without conviction. Generally speaking, the longer you wait to file a motion on innocence grounds, the higher the burden you must overcome.
If you file your motion within four years of the termination of prosecution, then you must prove your innocence by a preponderance of the evidence. A preponderance of the evidence means that it is more likely than not that you were innocent of the crime.
However, if you file your motion more than four years after the termination of prosecution, then you must prove your innocence by clear and convincing evidence. Clear and convincing evidence is evidence which will produce a firm belief or conviction in the judge’s mind. It is a heavier burden than the preponderance standard, but not as high as the beyond a reasonable doubt standard courts apply to criminal prosecutions.
Finally, if the court finds that the government was substantially prejudiced in its ability to respond to the motion by your delay in filing, the court is entitled to apply a rebuttable presumption that you are not entitled to have your record sealed on innocence grounds.
However, the court is not required to apply the presumption. Furthermore, the court is not entitled to apply the presumption at all if you can show that the evidence of your innocence was not reasonably available until after the prejudice to the government occurred.
Any type of offense – felony or misdemeanor – is eligible for relief under this type of motion and can be filed immediately after termination of the prosecution. If you have questions about the specifics of your case contact a DC record sealing lawyer today.
The effect of a judge granting an innocence motion is to “restore” the person who filed the motion to the “status he or she occupied before being arrested or charged.” This gives you the right in the future to answer the question “Have you ever been arrested?” by legally saying, “No.”
Although the existing paper documents contained in your criminal file will not be physically destroyed, they will become inaccessible to the public. Computerized records are deleted. Because the deletion of arrest records can have such positive impacts on things like employment opportunities and certain other privileges, it is prudent to work with a DC record sealing lawyer to ensure that the process is handled correctly.
Once your criminal record is sealed, any inquiry about your criminal record made to a court or law enforcement agency should result in the following response: “No records are available.”
A DC record sealing lawyer can help you successfully complete the process of having your record sealed from public view. First it will be necessary to obtain a copy of your actual criminal record. A motion must then be prepared and filed with the court, along with a supporting legal memorandum and supporting documents. A judge will then review your filings and, if they are procedurally sound, will order the appropriate prosecutor’s office to respond to your motion.
If your motion is granted, the court will order the government to certify within ninety days that all records of your arrest and related court proceedings have been destroyed or made non-public in compliance with the court’s order. For more information on how you can have your record sealed contact a DC record sealing lawyer today.
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