Expungement is the legal process by which a court removes or erases all records of a criminal conviction, even if it is a felony conviction.
We have the tremendous opportunity to help clients file expungement petitions so that the applicants can truthfully write "no" in answer to the question of whether they have ever been arrested for, plead guilty to, or convicted of a crime.
Expungement of criminal records has become a much easier process than in years past, but clients benefit from legal assistance in preparing their filings. Helping these clients who are considered the least of our brothers and sisters falls well within the mission of JRCLS.
It is urgent now because Oregon is about to make it very easy for anyone to do background checks by rolling out a new online system for managing Court records. With a name and birth date, anyone can look up another’s criminal history.
There are many individuals who have been arrested and served their time, but their record follows them even decades later. Others have been arrested and acquitted but the charge has not been removed. These people are unfairly disadvantaged in many ways:
Getting a job - Applicants are asked if they have ever been arrested for, plead guilty to, or convicted of a crime. Those answering “yes” will most likely be passed over for the job, which leaves them with few legal options for supporting themselves.
Renting an apartment - Most rental agencies research criminal convictions. Without the ability to rent an apartment, many with criminal convictions face homelessness.
Getting a car loan, mortgage, or line of credit -Some loan agencies consider a criminal record nearly as important as the credit score. Applicants with criminal records are unfairly judged as being more likely to default on a loan and are either denied or given interest rates that are significantly higher.
Adopting or Fostering - Oregon expands the normal background investigation to include a full criminal history check of every adult living in the household and will automatically disqualify a person if any member of the household has been convicted of certain crimes.
Having peace of mind - The most valuable reason may be peace of mind. Serving one’s time should put an end to a conviction but for practical reasons, it does not. Expungement allows it to be put firmly in the past.