Every year, Montgomery County law enforcement officers arrest thousands of people. These arrests often have significant short-term effects, in terms of things like court supervision and fines. But even if a lawyer successfully resolves the case, criminal records often have lasting consequences. Despite what some people think, these consequences usually do not go away by themselves.

There may be some significant collateral consequences as well, especially if the conviction was a crime of moral turpitude. This category includes most all violent crimes and financial crimes. Even things like shoplifting and writing a “hot check” are CMTs. These offenses often affect immigration and employment matters, often even many years later. Furthermore, specific crimes, such as domestic violence assault, can have specific consequences in some areas, like family court proceedings.

So, it’s always a good idea to try to avoid a criminal record, if possible. But before we get to the mechanics of doing so, we should separate myth from fact.

Does Your Criminal Record Clear After 7 Years?

Traffic ticket points often fall off a driving record after seven years. Additionally, negative information on a credit report, like charge-offs or bankruptcies, often falls off after seven years. Finally, when many private companies provide background checks for employment purposes, arrest records more than seven years old do not appear on these reports. So, it is easy to see where this myth came from.

However, even though the seven-year itch is a myth. In most cases, criminal records last forever. That includes both arrest and conviction records.

There is a similar myth regarding juvenile records. Some people believe courts automatically seal or expunge these records after the juvenile turns 18. In most cases, this myth is completely untrue as well.

As a brief side note, Fizer Bonding Company, (bail bond near me) is usually a good resource for questions like these. Although they are not lawyers, these bail bonds professionals often have considerable insight into criminal law and procedure matters and can be a good information referral source.

Informal Expungement in Tennessee

Expungement is the only way to clear a criminal record in Tennessee. Sometimes, the process is formal, as outlined below. Other times, a time-saving, but sometimes risky, informal shortcut may be available.

Pretrial diversion is the first example. It is usually available in non-violent and non-DUI misdemeanors if the defendant has no criminal record. Depending on the facts and circumstances, pretrial diversion may be available in other situations as well, including felonies.

Typically, eligible defendants go through about a three-month program. The program requirements vary greatly in different jurisdictions and for different offenses, but these requirements usually include:

  • Paying a fee,
  • Attending self improvement-type classes, such as anger management or life skills,
  • Submitting to a drug or alcohol evaluation,
  • Avoiding any further trouble with the law during the program, and
  • Completing a community service requirement.

If the defendant jumps through all these hoops within the time allotted, the prosecutor normally dismisses the case. That dismissal means the defendant does not have a conviction record. However, the arrest record usually remains. More on this point below.

Pretrial diversion is very popular among defendants and defense attorneys because it is basically a risk-free option. If the defendant fails to complete the program, prosecutors simply pick up where they left off. Generally, there are no lingering consequences in taking this route.

Deferred adjudication, which is sometimes called deferred disposition, is another type of informal expungement. It is often available in most misdemeanors and felonies, including many violent crimes.

While deferred adjudication and pretrial diversion may end in the same way, which is a dismissal of charges, the nuts and bolts of the mechanics of the legal process are very different. In many ways, deferred adjudication is exactly like probation. The defendant pleads guilty or no contest to the charges. Then, the defendant serves a period of court-supervised conditional release. These conditions include things like:

  • Reporting regularly to a probation officer,
  • Committing no other criminal infractions (traffic tickets normally do not count),
  • Paying supervision and other fees,
  • Performing many hours of community service, usually at least 50,
  • Remaining in the jurisdiction,
  • Informing the probation office of any address changes,
  • Working or attending school full time, and
  • Paying any court-ordered family support, like alimony or child support.

Typically, deferred adjudication probation also includes some offense-specific conditions. For example, DUI probation usually includes an ignition interlock requirement. IIDs are like portable Breathalyzers attached to the vehicle ignition. The vehicle will not start if the driver’s BAC level is too high.

Now, for the really risky part. If the defendant violates any condition of the probation terms, a Robertson County judge could sentence the defendant to any length of sentence time, up to the maximum amount provided by law.

As mentioned, informal expunction only erases the conviction record. At a future time down the road, if someone asks you about the arrest record, saying something like, “I hired a lawyer and the lawyer took care of it” usually satisfies the question and ends any further inquiries.

Formal Expungement in Tennessee

In 2017, The Volunteer State significantly expanded the state’s criminal record expungement laws. As a result, defendants whose cases were disposed of favorably may be entitled to record expungement. Eligible dispositions include:

  • Retired or Dismissed: In general, any disposition other than “guilty” usually qualifies under this category. That includes the aforementioned pretrial diversion and deferred disposition options. Additionally, a not-guilty verdict at trial or a prosecutor’s voluntary dismissal may qualify.
  • Non-Violent Conviction: Most misdemeanors may be expunged after five years, provided the defendant has no more than two criminal convictions. DUIs may be expunged in this way if the defendant pleaded guilty to a lesser-included offense, like reckless driving. Certain felonies are eligible as well. 
  • Higher Reversal: If an appeals court sets aside a conviction for any reason, that disposition usually counts as an acquittal. The same thing usually applies to executive pardons, which are easier to obtain than many people believe.

If you do not qualify for expungement, you may qualify for sealing. Sealed records still exist, but only law enforcement officers, judges, and certain government agencies can view them. On job applications and other documents, people can legally say they have no conviction if the record was sealed.

If you do not qualify for sealing either, a Certificate of Rehabilitation may be an option. These documents may make it a bit easier to find a job and do some other everyday things. 

Of course, as in all matters involving the law and legal representation, consult with your attorney for information regarding any specific situation or representation for you or a loved one. For more information about the bonding process, you can easily reach out to Fizer Bonding Company (bail bonds Clarksville TN).

Our compassionate and knowledgeable bonding professionals have served the bonding needs of Montgomery and Robertson Counties for over 40 years. Fizer Bonding Company is a proud member of the Tennessee Association of Professional Bail Agents. For more info about Fizer Bonding Company bail bonds, click here.

“We’ll get your tail outta jail!”

Fizer Bonding Company in Montgomery County Tennessee

(931) 449-9351

Fizer Bonding Company in Robertson County Tennessee

(615) 667-1109

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