Why Should I Seal My Record?
As many as 100 million Americans — potentially one in three adults in the U.S. — have some type of arrest record. Because a criminal record is a public document, people with the interest such as prospective employers can look into a person’s past and hold an arrest, criminal charge, conviction and sentence, even if it’s just probation or a small fine, against them.
A study funded by the U.S. Department of Justice found that ex-offenders are one third to one half less likely to be considered for a job as nonoffenders. For African-Americans, the implications of a criminal record are even more damaging. A criminal past can keep you from going to school, taking out a loan, renting an apartment or obtaining public housing, or enjoying other standard aspects of life.
At Adras & Altig, we believe that no one should have to pay for a mistake forever, and the State of Nevada agrees. Many people are eligible to have their Nevada criminal records sealed after a specified length of time so that the record can no longer be a barrier to employment, housing, loans, or college admission.
Having your criminal record sealed in Nevada allows you to legally say “No” to questions about past arrests and/or convictions. Would that be a benefit to you? Read on to see how our Las Vegas record-sealing attorneys can make it happen.
Sealing Criminal Records vs. Expungement
First, a quick lesson about terminology. Criminal records are public records. This means they are theoretically available to anyone who wants to see them, regardless of the outcome of an arrest, charges or a trial. With online databases, public records are more readily available than ever before.
Under Nevada law, most criminal records can be sealed. A sealed record in Nevada is physically removed from a record system and its dissemination is substantially or altogether restricted. It will no longer turn up in a background check of the type routinely conducted by prospective employers, banks, credit agencies, universities or landlords.
While most people cannot access sealed criminal records, they continue to exist. If a court order says it is in the public interest, sealed records could be opened. By comparison, records that are expunged no longer exist. Expungement wipes the slate clean.
Various states handle sealing and expunging criminal records differently, with most offering one or the other, and some offering sealing or expungement according to the severity of the crime(s) or length of time since the offense.
Nevada law offers the opportunity to seal records of all but the worst crimes such as homicide, sexual offenses and crimes against children. By law, if your records are sealed in Nevada, you have the right to answer “No” on applications and in interviews that ask whether you have a criminal record.
What Are the Benefits of Sealing Your Criminal Records in Las Vegas?
If you have a criminal record, you may know already what a burden it can be. It’s a mistake in your past that you worry about being discovered. But for individuals who have put a mistake behind them and moved forward with their lives, criminal record sealing offers a fresh start. Among the primary reasons to have a criminal record sealed are:
- Employment benefits. Most employers conduct criminal background checks on prospective employees. You may be required to fill out an application that asks whether you have ever been arrested or convicted of a crime. An answer of “Yes” to the background question may not disqualify you, but surely it does not help. In Las Vegas, you cannot usually get a job in a casino with a felony on your record. Even after being hired somewhere, new management or owners can conduct background checks on employees. Maybe you won’t be fired, but you may not ever be promoted, either.
- Citizenship benefits. A Green Card holder applying for U.S. citizenship through naturalization will be asked about ever having been arrested or convicted of a crime. Not all crimes are a barrier to naturalization, but murder or an “aggravated felony” conviction after November 29, 1990, are. The problem is the expansive federal definition of “aggravated felony,” which includes theft or violent crime punishable by at least one year in prison. For example, federal courts have ruled that resisting arrest and driving under the influence (DUI) are crimes of violence. In truth, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) can use its discretion to claim that just about any crime demonstrates a lack of good moral character, and block naturalization.
- Licensing benefits. If you need a professional license to do your job in Nevada, you should know that there is no general state law addressing how a criminal conviction affects licensure. On the contrary, Nevada statutes pertaining to licensed engineers and land surveyors, for one example, allow disciplinary action against a licensee, an applicant for licensure or an intern based on “conviction of … any crime an essential element of which is dishonesty or which is directly related to the practice of engineering or land surveying.”
- Housing benefits. It is not unusual for a public housing project or a private landlord to refuse people with criminal records as a matter of policy. Landlords may claim your criminal history threatens other residents’ or employees’ health, safety or right to peaceful enjoyment of their home or workday in the complex. If your record is sealed, you have the right to answer “No” to questions about prior arrests and convictions on housing applications.
Agencies that require background checks for criminal records conduct searches as a routine part of doing business, often through a third-party service vendor. They will not miss your records if they are available. But they will not know about them if they are sealed.
How to Have Your Nevada Criminal Record Sealed
To be eligible to have your criminal records sealed in Nevada, you must have completed all requirements of any sentence handed down by a court and not have additional charges pending against you. You may become eligible to have your record sealed after a prescribed number of years, which varies according to the severity of the crime.
Once you are eligible, there are several steps required to obtain a court order to seal criminal records in Nevada. They include obtaining multiple documents and submitting a specific number of copies and/or originals to the local district attorney’s office in an exact order and format. The directions must be carefully followed, or time and money spent on the task are wasted.
The district attorney approves or denies petitions seeking to have criminal records sealed. If the DA approves, you must submit the order to the Clerk of Court for a judge to sign. If your petition is denied for any reason, you must wait for two years to petition for a rehearing. You cannot petition for more than a third hearing.
Our attorneys explain eligibility requirements and the process of having a record sealed in more detail here. If you believe you qualify to begin the process in Clark County, the easiest thing for you to do is to contact the Las Vegas record-sealing lawyers of Adras & Altig. We can meet with you to provide a free evaluation of your record and an explanation of the opportunity Nevada law grants you for sealing the past.
Contact us today to learn about sealing your criminal record in Las Vegas.