Serious long-term consequences often come with arrest records

Records of arrests, including ones that never led to charges or convictions, can have damaging effects on a person’s career, earnings and more.

Stricter laws and greater emphasis on enforcement have led to a growing number of people in Minnesota and other states having criminal records. According to The Wall Street Journal, close to one-third of American adults have records on file with the FBI. Authorities have made over 250 million arrests in the last two decades, and daily, as many as 12,00 people have their names added to the FBI database.

Many of these adults have records because they were arrested without necessarily being charged with a crime or convicted. Still, reports indicate that these arrest records can have significant adverse effects in the long term.

Damaging legal records

The Wall Street Journal notes that it has become easier than ever for third parties to obtain arrest records. Consequently, people with criminal records may find their ability to do all of the following things restricted:

  • Pursue higher education
  • Secure employment
  • Obtain financing
  • Find housing

In fact, an analysis from the University of South Carolina indicates that people with arrest records may be less likely to graduate, live above the poverty line, become homeowners and earn higher salaries. This may especially hold true for people who face the stigma of being arrested in connection with serious felony criminal offenses.

Troublingly, these adverse effects are evident even among people whose arrests didn't result in further legal action. The same study found that only about one-quarter of the arrests surveyed led to formal charges. Additionally, nearly half of the people who were arrested were never convicted of anything. Still, the arrests appeared to have negative long-term effects on various aspects of each person's life.

Expunging criminal records

A common misconception among people who have been wrongly arrested or had charges against them dropped is that their records will reflect those facts. Some people even assume that an arrest won't appear on their records if it didn't lead to further legal action. However, this isn't the case. Arrests remain on the record, and responsibility for sealing the record lies with the person who was arrested.

In Minnesota, people who have been found not guilty or had charges against them dropped may be eligible to request expungement of criminal records. Government officials and certain government entities, including the police and FBI, can still see these sealed records. However, other parties, such as employers and landlords, cannot view criminal records that have been expunged.

Professional input can help

Given the time and expense involved in seeking an expungement, people who wish to seal their records may benefit from consulting with an attorney beforehand. A defense attorney can help a person assess whether an expungement is the best option. Additionally, an attorney may be able to help a person navigate the challenging process of convincing a judge to grant an expungement.