A trial for the accused might only last a short time, but their record could stay with them for the rest of their life.
Felonies are crimes that come with the most severe punishments because they’re the most serious offenses.
Generally, the offenses are violent and damaging actions that harm others. A person found guilty of murder, rape, kidnapping, armed robbery, terrorism, or other felony often faces years to the rest of their life in prison.
Even if the accused is not found guilty, a record of their arrest and investigation may present challenges as they work to rebuild their finances, career, living situation, and community connections.
It’s important to understand whether or not a felony is on your record and how that will impact other areas of your life.
How Long Do Felonies Stay on a Person’s Record?
In general, a felony charge of any sort will stay on your record for the rest of your life unless you take the initiative to have the information restricted.
Part of the reasoning behind this is that the crime was very serious, and being accused of such a thing immediately alters your position in society.
So if someone is involved in a felony crime, that information needs to be available to future employers, landlords, and financial institutions.
State Level vs. Federal Level Felonies
Felonies are charged at either the state or federal level. A person cannot be charged twice for the same crime, but in rare cases, they can be charged for a crime by both court systems.
The duration that federal and state felonies stay on a person’s record are both forever, though the options for addressing that differ according to the laws of the nation and individual states.
In the state of Washington, you may seek to limit how public your felony is through a process called expungement, but only after certain parameters are met.
Expungement, Vacating, and Record-Sealing Options
The only way to remove a felony charge from your record is through expungement or vacating (vacating a felony removes an actual conviction and is less common).
Both federal and state felonies may be expunged, as long as you’re in a state that allows for it.
It’s important to understand that expungement does not necessarily change or destroy a criminal record. Rather, it seals a specific arrest or charge from the public.
The ordeal still happened, but it won’t show up in a criminal background check, and you would not have to admit anything if asked about your legal history.
Be aware that, even if your felony records are expunged, they may still be used if you’re charged with a crime in the future.
- Reinstate a driver’s license that’s been suspended or revoked.
- Restore revoked gun rights.
- Reverse sex offender registration requirements.
Washington State Felony Expungement
In the state of Washington, you may seek an expungement for a felony, as long as you weren’t ultimately convicted.
Non-conviction criminal records you can expunge include:
- Arrests and investigations
- Dismissed cases
- Not-guilty findings
To be eligible to apply for expungement you must meet the following requirements:
- You were never convicted of a felony.
- It’s been at least three years since your arrest or two years since your case was classified as non-conviction data.
- You had no prior felony or gross misdemeanor charges and no charges or arrests since.
- The case you want to expunge is not pending.
It is in your best interest to work with an expungement attorney as you file your request, as it’s not always easy. It is, however, free to petition for expungement.
Usually, the process looks like this:
- Request criminal record from the Washington State Patrol (WSP).
- Send the petition to the WSP, law enforcement that charged or arrested you, and the investigating agency.
- Wait to hear back from the WSP.
How long does a felony stay on your record after this process? It all depends how long the back and forth takes, which is another reason to have a criminal defense attorney in your corner.
Federal Felony Expungement
Unfortunately, it’s typically not an option to expunge federal felony records. No federal statute for sealing federal felony charges or convictions exists.
The only time someone may seek an expungement of federal felony records is if:
- Your arrest or conviction is found to be unlawful.
- Your record exists due to a criminal justice system clerical error.
Do felonies go away completely? While certain steps, if you qualify, can reduce their visibility and influence, felonies will never go away completely.
If legal challenges arise in your future, even an expunged felony could come back to complicate matters.
Impact of Felonies on Employment and Personal Life
Having a felony – even without conviction – on your record can impact every area of your life.
In seeking education or searching for a job, you may encounter:
- Lost eligibility for certain scholarships and grants.
- Denied access to professional organizations and licensing.
- Stigma and discrimination in the job market.
- Occupations restricted for felons.
- Legal considerations for employers in the form of background checks.
In your personal life, you may encounter:
- Difficulty with landlord background checks.
- Receiving public benefits.
- Renewing your driver’s license.
- Voting restrictions.
Mitigating the Effects of a Felony on a Record
If you’re unable to get your felony charge or conviction removed from your record, you can take other actions to reduce the negative impacts.
Look into your area’s rehabilitation programs and resources:
- Education and vocational training opportunities.
- Substance abuse and mental health treatment programs.
- Certificates of rehabilitation or pardon.
- Community support organizations and reentry initiatives
Vindicate Criminal Law Group Helps with Felonies
A felony on your record, even without conviction, can upend your life. If you’re facing charges, it’s time to talk to an experienced criminal defense attorney and explore your options.
When you’re ready for the legal assistance that can help you get your life back, contact Vindicate Criminal Law Group.