How long does a misdemeanor stay on your record? Can all misdemeanors be expunged? What is this process like and how long does it usually take?
If you have been charged with a misdemeanor you have a much better possibility of being able to have the charge expunged from your record than if you have been charged with a felony. This doesn't guarantee that you will be able to remove it - there are still a lot of circumstances where a misdemeanor cannot be removed from a record.
Factors to consider:
1. The state you have been charged in (every state is different - you should talk to a local attorney).
2. The nature of the crime (sex crimes, for instance, are much less likely to be removed from your record than more benign crimes - some states also now refuse to expunge drunk driving charges, especially if you have a prior record).
3. How long it has been since you were charged - usually the bare minimum time frame for expungement is five years from the date you completed probation, but this varies by state also.
4. Your compliance with terms of probation - if you haven't paid off your fine or successfully completed probation you are probably not a candidate for expungement.
So what does expungement mean?
When you get a misdemeanor "expunged," for all intents and purposes it is removed from your record. This means that if somebody performs a background check, they won't see your charges. The courts basically treat you as if you had never committed a crime in the first place.
There are some government agencies, however, that will still have access to your record even after expungement. The FBI, for instance, can still pull up your expunged criminal record. Immigration officers at the border also have access to this information (don't worry, this shouldn't affect you when traveling internationally).