Rena*, a grandmother in her late ﬁfties was living with two young adults members of her family. The household was surviving on a combined annual income of approximately $17,000. Rena was hopeful to find a better paying job to provide for her family, but was not having any success. While conducting routine background checks, potential employers discovered previous arrests and minor criminal convictions. Rena did not deny that she made some bad decisions in her teens and twenties. These past mistakes were now part of a criminal record that included retail theft and substance abuse charges.
Hoping for a fresh start, Rena came to Neighborhood Legal Services after seeing a flyer one of her students had in the Sunday school class she taught. The flyer detailed how free expungement help was available. An NLS attorney met with Rena and was able to explain that with legal help she could expunge these records from over thirty years ago since Rena had no further criminal convictions and all court-ordered fines were paid.
To Rena as well as most of the general public, the word “expungement” is unfamiliar. Expungement is the process of going to court to ask a judge to seal a criminal record. After the record is sealed, criminal charges do not show up in a criminal background check.
Within six months, Rena’s criminal record was successfully expunged with the help of her civil legal aid attorney. This meant that employers could focus on Rena’s eﬀorts to turn her life around rather than the poor decisions of her youth. Today, Rena is registered with a home health care service and supports herself and her family.
*Names have been changed to protect client’s safety and privacy.