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A past criminal record can wreak havoc on so may things: a job application, housing assistance, student loans, child custody, and even a state bar license. Expunging a criminal record can be priceless to some people. For others, price is a consideration. How much can you expect to pay to expunge your criminal record? That depends -- on the number, nature, and location of the crime.
What All Goes Into the Expungement Process?
Every state has different requirements to expunge a record. Typically, an attorney will obtain a copy of your criminal record you are looking to get expunged to get the process started. Next, documents are gathered to begin creating the formal pleadings, such as court records and prosecutor files. Some jurisdictions require serving the district attorney papers regarding the process, and others may require an Order of Expungement to be drafted and signed by the judge.
Sometimes there is a formal petition for expunging each charge, in front of a judge. If successful, you may then need to serve a copy of the expungement order on various government agencies, such as the district attorney's office and the department of corrections, which may have your criminal record on file, so that they too can expunge it. Each jurisdiction has different requirements, which can get very confusing. As you can imagine, you will need to pay for each of these steps.
How Much Will This Cost Me?
Costs to hire an attorney to expunge a record vary widely, ranging anywhere from a few hundred dollars to $10,000, depending on the number and severity of the underlying crimes, and the requirements of the jurisdiction in which the crime was committed. Before you sign a contract with an attorney for the process, make sure you know what you are getting: Will the record be completely expunged or just sealed? Is this a flat or hourly fee? Is there a maximum on the number of hours charged? Are all filing fees included?
Hiring a lawyer isn't necessary. You can try to do it yourself. There are websites that can walk you through the process. Expect to pay $100 to $600 in document processing and filing fees. If you feel you may have trouble coming up with the money to pay those fees, some states do offer free expungement services to indigent clients. Check with your local Public Defender or Legal Aid office to see if it's offered, and if you qualify,
Though hiring a criminal defense lawyer isn't required to complete the process, you may want to hire one to make sure it's done correctly. This is one of those detailed processes where if it isn't done correctly, it isn't done at all. Also, if you have moved away from the jurisdiction in which you were arrested, having a local attorney will not only make the process more convenient, but perhaps more likely to succeed.