How Long Does A Misdemeanor Stay On Your Record? (How to Erase)

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Criminal Records | April 28, 2022

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If you think you have a misdemeanor charge on your record, you may be wondering “how long does a misdemeanor stay on your record?” Unfortunately in most states, a misdemeanor conviction will stay on your criminal record for life, but the good news is that there are ways to have these convictions erased… you just need to know how.

Being concerned with a misdemeanor charge and its removal can come about for several different reasons, one of the most likely being a search for employment. During the process of hiring a new employee, many employers run a background check. These checks serve to deliver information about a criminal history that may affect the way a candidate can safely do a job. Most candidates will be aware of a misdemeanor charge on their record. If you aren’t sure, there are many different ways to learn the answer to, “how do I know if I have a misdemeanor on my record?”

The following guide explains how long criminal convictions (misdemeanors) will remain on background reports, and the steps you can take to erase them for good.

How Do You Erase Misdemeanors from Your Criminal Record? (Expungement)

Misdemeanors can only be erased from a criminal record by being sealed or expunged. While there are only two methods, there are a few options on how to complete each. If your misdemeanor does fit the qualifications, you can choose to move forward on your own or with the help of an attorney. Both expungements and sealing can only occur if your criminal conviction fits specific qualifications.

How long does misdemenaor stay on record question answered by graphic showing how to erase misdemenaors on record through expungement, sealing and contacting an attorney to perfomr the process so that the time a misdemeanor on your record can be reduced.

Method One: Expungement

If you want to erase a charge from your record, misdemeanor expungement may be an option. When you expunge a charge, it is removed from the criminal record completely. The rules following an expungement vary from state to state. In most states, however, expungement will need to fit criteria like the following:

    • The type of misdemeanor offense isn’t included in a list of offenses ineligible for the the process
    • You aren’t currently in trial, jail, or on probation for another crime
    • The charge didn’t result in you being sent to a county jail

If your charge fits within the qualifications above, you might be eligible for expungement. In order to move forward, you should double check your state guidelines to confirm they are similar to the ones listed. The state Department of Justice or public defender’s office website will also have instructions on how to move forward with expunging a crime.For example, if you’re undergoing a background check, Illinois lists the conditions for clearing your personal history on the State Appellate Defender site. California offers a complete checklist.

Illinois State Appellate Defender website screenshot with yellow arrows pointing to resources.

In most cases, however, you will be required to submit two legal documents to the county court where your criminal conviction occurred. The two documents include a motion and an affidavit.

The motion serves to explain what you want to do and the affidavit is meant to provide support for your request in the form of you swearing you have met all guidelines. Some states will also require that you submit a set of fingerprints with your documents.4 Depending on the state in which you apply for an expungement of a charge from your criminal record, it may not be free. Some counties in some states require a small filing fee be paid in order to process an expungement application. Once received, the court will determine whether or not they wish to grant the expungement. If they decline, you have the option to appeal. When appealing, you will likely need to attend court directly.

There are some states that don’t offer expungement as an option, such as California. In California, the form of expungement is known as a dismissal.2 If you become eligible for a dismissal in California, the record isn’t removed but rather changed. While this doesn’t remove the charge from your records, it does make note that it is a dismissed charge.

Method Two: Sealing the Record

If expunging the record is not an option, you can attempt to seal it. When a misdemeanor is sealed, it is completely hidden from the view of the public. You should know that this does not remove the charge from your record completely, but still leaves it as accessible by the government or police officers. The rules following when a record can be sealed are much less strict than those for expungement, which make it the next best option.

In order to seal a charge on your record, you will need to submit certain forms to the court, showing you being originally convicted of the crime. After the court reviews the documents sent in, they will make a decision. As with expungement, you will have the opportunity to appeal any negative decision made regarding the sealing of your criminal charge.

Method Three: Contacting an Attorney

If you believe that you are eligible for a charge expungement or sealing and don’t want to attempt the process on your own, you should consider hiring a criminal defense attorney. Attorneys are very familiar with the local county courts and the methods needed to remove a charge. The process of finding an attorney usually involves searching the internet or asking people you know for recommendations. If you do ask others for recommendations, make sure to do an online search to make sure their suggestion is trustworthy. You should know that hiring an attorney to assist with removing records from your criminal history will likely be more expensive than attempting to do it on your own. In most cases, however, an attorney will likely be more successful as they are more familiar with laws.

What is a Misdemeanor Charge? (How Do Bail Bonds Products Factor In?)

Questions about how long does a misdemeanor stay on your record revolve around the fact that misdemeanors are a level of crime that is less serious than a felony. There are three different charge types in the criminal justice system: Infractions, Misdemeanors, and Felonies. All three types represent a different level of crime with different types of punishments. The jail punishment for a misdemeanor charge is typically between 30 days and 1 year long, depending on the severity. There are many different crimes that can be considered a misdemeanor, many of which vary from state to state. Some common crimes include:

  • Driving Under the Influence (DUI)
  • Minor Drug Offenses
  • Resisting Arrest
  • Vandalism
  • Minor Theft Crimes

Most states break misdemeanor crimes up into three different classes: Class A, Class B, and Class C. A Class A misdemeanor is more serious than a Class B or a Class C charge, and the punishments are often greater. If you have ever been convicted of a crime that falls within the category of a misdemeanor, it is likely present on your criminal record. Even though misdemeanors are less serious, by nature, than felonies, they can still negatively impact your life. People with relevant criminal misdemeanors could have trouble finding a new job, being accepted to continuing education programs, or even renting in specific locations.

San Diego Public Defender website screenshot outlining how long does a misdemeanor stay on your records and expungment and sealing requests.

A bail bond is a service offered by bail bondsmen. The purpose of a bail bond is to provide funds to assist with posting bail when arrested for a crime. In order to get a bail bond, you often need to put up some type of collateral to the agency offering the bond. No matter what type of charge you are facing, you can still use bail bond products in most states. Bail bonds are not available in Oregon, Maine, Kentucky, Illinois, Massachusetts, Wisconsin, Washington D.C., and Nebraska.1 This means that no matter what type of charge you have been arrested for, you won’t be able to seek a bail bond.

If you were arrested and sent to jail for a misdemeanor but got out because of a bail bond, you will still have the charge on your record. In fact, the use of a bail bond has no relation to whether or not the charge sticks on your record. A bail bond is a contract between the person in jail and a bail bond company. If you do take out a bail bond, you should know that not appearing for all court appearances will cause you to forfeit any collateral submitted. It will also lead to a warrant for your arrest, no matter what type of charge you are facing.

How Long Does A Misdemeanor Stay on Your Record? (It Depends)

The answer to the question “how long does a misdemeanor stay on your record?” is unexpected to some people. While many people assume that a misdemeanor charge will be removed from a record after a certain period of time, this isn’t the case. In fact, a misdemeanor stays on your record permanently.3 Although the charge will remain on your record, it does not mean that it will always show up on things like background check reports. Several states have put a law into place that prevents using information from a background check past a certain number of years.

In Texas, companies cannot provide or use criminal history records that are older than 7 years. This is known as the “seven year rule” and other laws, like “ban the box,” are also active in California, Nevada, Colorado, Kansas, Massachusetts, Montana, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, and Washington. This prevents employers from placing a box on an application asking if you’ve ever been convicted of a crime. It is important to know that the 7 year timeline is determined differently for each state. For example, Texas starts the clock once the case has a solution. This means that the 7 year counter begins once you were sentenced for the misdemeanor conviction. Other states may start the clock when your sentence has been completed.

To add another layer of complication, different states may also limit the type of information shown on background checks based on the amount of money you make. In most cases, a position that pays less than $75,000 will need to follow the seven year rule. Once the salary goes up from there, older charges may be used. If you have concerns about a misdemeanor showing up on a records search in the US, you should consult the laws and guidelines for your specific state.

A misdemeanor charge is one that is less serious than a felony, with most charges carrying punishments that range from 30 days in jail to 1 year. A conviction of a misdemeanor crime will almost always result in a criminal record, even if you are bailed out of jail with a bail bond. Many people become concerned with a misdemeanor charge on their record when searching for a new job, since it will be reported on a pre-employment background check report. If you’re wondering how long does a misdemeanor stay on your record, the unfortunate answer is permanently. Once convicted of a misdemeanor charge, the only way to have it removed is to have it sealed or expunged.

The best way to erase misdemeanors is to have them expunged. When a charge is expunged, the information about it is completely wiped from the record. Most states have very strict guidelines surrounding which charges can be expunged, which makes this option unattainable for some, and some states don’t offer expungement at all. The best alternative is to have misdemeanors sealed. When the charge is sealed, it is hidden from the view of the public. This means that it won’t come back on a background check that requests your criminal record.

The important thing to know about sealed misdemeanors is that they are still visible on your record to law enforcement and other county officials. The qualifications to have misdemeanors sealed are slightly less restrictive than expungement. This, however,  does not mean that it is available to everyone. Most states offer information about sealing a criminal record on their Justice Department websites.

If you decide that you don’t want to move forward with erasing your misdemeanor on your own, you have the option of contacting an attorney. Most criminal defense attorneys have plenty of experience with removing misdemeanors from a criminal record and will be able to assist you for a fee. This will likely be more expensive than attempting to do it on your own, but will probably yield better results.

If you are unable to complete an expungement or a sealing on your criminal charge, the records will stay on your history. This does not always mean that they will be accessible to potential employers. In fact, many people wonder will I pass a background check with a misdemeanor, and the answer is that usually you will, but it can depend.There are some states that limit background searches and the use of criminal records to 7 years, like in Texas, California, Nevada, Colorado, Kansas, Massachusetts, Montana, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, and Washington. However, others don’t have codified limits. Now that you know the answer to how long does a misdemeanor stay on your record, you can take steps to ensure that your personal history is free from these lower-level infractions.


References

1Bail Bonds Direct. N.d. Bail Bonds 101 – Essential Guide. 19 Nov 2021. Web. <http://bailbondsdirect.com/bail-bonds-101-essential-guide/>

2San Diego County. N.d. Expungement FAQ. 19 Nov 2021. Web. <https://www.sandiegocounty.gov/content/sdc/public_defender/expungement_faq.html>

3Rodriguez, Ambrosio. 29 Nov 2021. The Rodriguez Law Group. How Long Does a Misdemeanor Stay on Your Record. 19 Nov 2021. Web. <https://www.aerlawgroup.com/blog/how-long-does-a-misdemeanor-stay-on-your-record/>

4Lohrke Law. n.d. How to Get Your Felony Expunged for Free in Oregon. 19 Nov 2021. Web. <https://lohrkelaw.com/how-to-get-your-felony-expunged-for-free-in-oregon/>