Expunged Records: Can You Legally Say ‘No’ to the Conviction Question?

For those with a criminal record, landing a job or apartment can feel hopeless. Every application asks the dreaded question: Have you ever been convicted of a crime? Even one mistake in your past can torpedo future opportunities.

Fortunately, Missouri law allows people to expunge criminal records, in certain circumstances. Expungement is —a process where a criminal record is made unavailable to the general public and certain records are destroyed or redacted. Like countless others seeking a fresh start, you may wonder: If my record is expunged, can I answer ‘no’ if asked about previous arrests or convictions? Let’s explore when you can honestly deny your record, as well as notable exceptions.

How Expungement Changes Your Criminal Record

An expungement doesn’t completely erase or delete crimes from your history. But it does remove convictions and arrests from public record and allow you to legally deny that it occurred. It also requires certain agencies to destroy or redact certain records.

An expunged record is essentially sealed from general background checks. While law enforcement maintains access, most employers and landlords cannot see your formerly public criminal record.

Expungement brings two major benefits: stopping automatic disqualifications and legally answering ‘no’ when asked about your record in most situations. This clears crucial hurdles to gaining employment and housing.

Who Can Still Access Expunged Records?

As previously mentioned, while expunged records are not available to the public, certain entities can still access and view the sealed information:

  • Law enforcement personnel
  • Court officials like judges, prosecutors, and probation officers
  • Federal agencies like the FBI
  • Licensing agencies, with your consent (a fingerprint background check)

So, while expungement prevents the general public and most private companies from seeing your record, legal systems and certain officials retain access. It’s not erased completely.

When You Can Legally Answer ‘No’ About Your Record

For the vast majority of rental and job applications, you can freely answer ‘no’ when asked about criminal history if your record was properly expunged.

This includes most employment applications, when renting an apartment, taking out personal loans, or any other interactions not requiring disclosure. Essentially, Missouri law intends expungement to give you a second chance, when it comes to employment, housing, and other areas. With few exceptions, you can deny its existence just like anyone without a criminal history.

Exceptions That Still Require Disclosing Expunged Records

Some exceptions still legally require disclosing expunged crimes. This includes:

  • Professional license applications (teaching, medical fields)
  • Law enforcement, commercial driving, and some government jobs
  • Casino, lottery, and other gambling industry work
  • Banks and financial institutions insured federally

These exceptions mostly involve fields requiring heightened public trust and safety standards. Be sure to consult a criminal justice attorney to understand all nuanced disclosure requirements in your profession.

Proactively Ensuring Your Expunged Record is Removed

While legally concealed, expunged records still exist in some databases even after court approval. To be proactive, you can conduct searches periodically to see what may be lingering online.

If any results still show your expunged record, contact the sites immediately with proof of expungement and demand removal. Having a lawyer draft these takedown requests can add weight to ensure compliance.

If a landlord or employer finds an expunged record, provide documentation of your expungement order. In most cases, they will honor the intent of your record being sealed and withdraw any adverse actions.

Are There Waiting Periods Before Answering ‘No’?

No. As soon as your record is expunged, you are confidently able to answer the conviction question. However, Missouri law does establish waiting periods before being able to apply for expungement.

There is a one-year wait for misdemeanors after the end of the sentence and three years for felonies after the completion of the sentence. Consult an attorney to ensure you’ve met the proper waiting period before making expungement applications.

How Our Expungement Lawyers Can Help You

Working with a qualified lawyer is crucial to ensure your record was expunged correctly in the first place. Sometimes, private databases hold onto criminal records, and unfortunately, an expungement doesn’t erase them everywhere.

At Rose Legal Services, we take one extra step with criminal expungement by keeping a list of known databases, sending removal requests to each, and providing clients documentation of these efforts. If we find an entity still publishing your expunged record, we send them the expungement order along with a firm request to delete it from their database.

With persistence, your sealed record can be removed from public access, no longer affecting your future opportunities.

Rose Legal Services has helped hundreds navigate Missouri expungement laws over the past years. Our experienced attorneys provide personalized guidance tailored to your situation. Contact us for a consultation to start clearing your record today.

Author Bio

Scott Rose, an experienced criminal defense lawyer and founder of Rose Legal Services, has been practicing law for over 20 years. He is dedicated to representing clients facing criminal charges and providing legal representation on various cases, including DWI, misdemeanor, and felony cases.

After graduating from the University of Virginia School of Law, he gained valuable experience working for a United States Senator and as a Judicial Law Clerk for the Chief Judge of a United States District Court. Throughout his legal career, W. Scott Rose has committed to providing high-quality legal representation to his clients, earning him a spot in the National Top 100 Trial Lawyers.

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