Expunction.  What a funny sounding word.  Why would I as an addict in recovery care about the meaning of such an odd word?  The simple reason is that being in recovery could foster an interest in such an odd word.

One of the corollaries to addiction is criminal mischief.   The exact percentage of addicts with criminal records is very difficult to ascertain.  However, it is common knowledge that the rate of incarceration in the United States has exploded in recent years because of addiction and the insatiable desire to obtain drugs.  The vast majority of these criminal offenses are nonviolent and are attempts to acquire drugs for personal consumption.  The result is that millions of people in the United States show criminal, nonviolent offenses in their backgrounds.

Those with criminal activity in their background face a substantial handicap in our society.  Nowadays many employers ask prospective employees if they have been charged with or convicted of any criminal activity.  If truthful, depending on the activity and the job being applied for, the applicant can be denied employment.  Professional licensure can be denied or provisionally granted as a result of criminal behavior.

In addition to employment, other limitations are imposed on those with a criminal background.  Loans, education opportunities, housing, firearm restrictions and voting are just some of the other ways that a criminal record can limit a recovering addict from going forth in life.  It is a large burden to carry around in life.  The concept of expunction exists to assist individuals in wiping the slate clean and getting a fresh start.

Expunction is the act of wiping out the criminal record.  It is not a pardon.  A pardon, which can only be granted by a governor or president, is an act of forgiveness but does not wipe the slate clean.  Expunction goes deeper as it eliminates all references to an individual’s criminal activity.

Expunction, or the act of expunging the record, is controlled by state law. It varies dramatically from state-to-state.  In many states, the age of the offender at the time of the act is crucial.  Many states are more willing to expunge the records when offenses were committed under the age of 18 or 21.  Some states, such as North Carolina, have expanded their expunction law so that age is no longer a critical factor.

A second requirement of expunction is that a period of time must pass between the time of conviction and the time of requesting expunction with a clean slate. The period of time may vary from 3 to 10 years and is often dependent on whether the conviction is for felonies or misdemeanors.  Third, states vary as to what criminal activities can be expunged with violent crimes often being excluded. Additionally, some states provide that charges which did not result in conviction can be expunged.

Further, specific information for every state can found be at the Collateral Consequences Resource Center whose website is ccresourcecenter.org.  It is not an easy path to expunction and may require professional assistance.  However, as you make serious progress in recovery, the benefits to moving forth in life with a clean slate are worth strongly considering.  Expunction – though a funny word – may substantially enhance your future.