Can You Expunge a Shoplifting Charge From Your Permanent Record?

Written by J. Hirby and Fact Checked by The Law Dictionary Staff  

Shoplifting is a serious matter. If a person is convicted of shoplifting, it is unlikely that he or she can have the charge removed from their permanent record. However, there may be some methods that can help. In all cases, it is important to have legal counsel to help in these endeavors. Likewise, it is important to note that laws vary from state-to-state.

Arrests vs. Convictions
The first step is to understand the difference between being arrested for shoplifting and being convicted. A shoplifting charge may or may not appear on a person's permanent record. If it does, this charge can weight negatively on a person's credit score or ability to get a loan. It may also appear on a criminal background check, which can negatively affect entry into educational institutions and job offers. Even without a conviction, a petition for expungement requires an attorney and an appearance before a judge.

Age at the Time of Crime
Some states make allowances for misdemeanor convictions that appear on one's record prior to turning 18. Some states have raised this age as high as 21. However, these laws do not guarantee that the crime will be expunged. They simply make it easier to complete the process.

Expunging Felony Shoplifting Charges
Most states do not have laws in place to protect those who have been convicted of felony shoplifting charges. However, some states will allow these charges to be "set aside," which generally removes the charge from one's permanent record. A motion must be filed with the court to remove the charge. The state prosecutor can then choose to object to the motion or pass. States can have different time frames in which the prosecutor can respond, but in most cases this is about three months. If the prosecutor does not respond during this time, it is the judge's decision. A qualified attorney and a clear record since the conviction can greatly aid in this process. If the charge is a misdemeanor, it is more likely to be set aside.

Ensure the Charge Has Been Expunged
It can take as long as eight weeks to remove a charge from one's permanent record after the judge has made his or her decision. Individuals should contact the Criminal Records office of the Justice Department in the state(s) that they were convicted. This process varies, but often includes the completion of a request form, a fingerprint scan, and a processing fee. If the charge has not been expunged, it is possible that the individual has not waited long enough for the change to have taken place. Otherwise, individuals can complete a Claim of Inaccuracy that will then be filed along with the criminal record.

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