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criminal defendants

What Can and Cannot Be Expunged From Your Criminal Record?

It's welcome news to many criminal defendants that they can have their record expunged. While expungement might not be perfect -- most law enforcement agencies will still be able to see your arrest history and any convictions -- it means potential employers will have a harder time seeing your mistakes. But which mistakes are eligible for expungement, and which will remain on your permanent record? General Information For the most part, expungement eligibility is determined by the severity of the crime and the person's criminal record. State law can vary, but expungement is normally available for crimes committed as a juvenile and most misdemeanors, so long as you don't have an extensive criminal history. Also, expungement is usually a one-time deal -- if you're convicted of crimes committed after expungement, those are likely to stay on your record. Arresting Information Just because you've been arrested doesn't mean you're guilty. But a record of your arrest may pop up on a background check. Luckily most states will expunge an arrest record, especially if there was no conviction. And expungement can be part of a negotiated plea bargain. Getting rid of that online mug shot, however, might be a tougher task. Conviction Information If you've been convicted of a crime, whether you can clear your record will come down to state and local rules on expungement. Some states allow you to expunge a DUI conviction, some do not. This can come up especially if you're trying to expunge an out-of-state conviction. And some states are more likely to expunge a conviction after a certain amount of time has passed. No matter where you live, however, felony convictions are very difficult, if not impossible, to get expunged. The main criteria for most expungement decisions is the severity and nature of the event for which expungement is sought. Felony convictions normally involve more serious crimes, making them harder to get off your record. The expungement process can be complicated, and it certainly helps to have an experienced criminal law attorney on your side. If you have questions about your criminal record or want to have it expunged, contact one today. Related Resources: Find Criminal Defense Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) The FindLaw Guide to Expungement (FindLaw PDF) Got Priors? How to Expunge Criminal Records (FindLaw Blotter) When Must You Disclose an Expungement? (FindLaw Blotter)
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Should You Take the Stand in Your Own Defense?

To many criminal defendants, taking the stand to defend themselves seems like a righteous and principled choice. That may have been Sulaiman Abu Ghaith's reasoning last week, when the man better known as Osama bin Laden's son-in-law took the stand during his terrorism trial. However, other high-profile defendants like George Zimmerman have opted not to testify at trial. Should you be convinced to take the stand in your own defense? Support for Taking the Stand As Ghaith might have felt as he took the stand last Wednesday, there is a certain sense of respect or earnestness that comes with directly voicing your own defense. In fact, one defense attorney told the Portland Press Herald that juries often want to hear from defendants, and testifying "can go a long ways toward convincing a jury of their innocence." The Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees every criminal defendant the right to take the stand and the right to refuse to testify. Many defendants exercise their right to tell jurors what happened in their own words, offering emotional and factual details that could otherwise be lost. Reasons Not to Take the Stand Because it is a constitutional right, attorneys often cannot prevent their clients from testifying, even if it is a terrible idea. In some cases, even if a defense attorney is certain his client is very likely going to lie on the stand, the attorney may be ethically bound to allow the defendant to testify. Keep in mind, though, that in many criminal cases, it is neither advisable nor necessary for a defendant to take the stand because the prosecution has the burden of proof. Criminal defendants are innocent until proven guilty and are not even required to present a speck of evidence in their defense -- much less to testify. When defendants do take the stand, it is a potential invitation for prosecutors to rip them to pieces during cross-examination. Even the most composed persons can become angry, blustering, guilty-looking buffoons when grilled by a skilled prosecutor. An equally skilled criminal defense attorney can advise you whether you should take the stand in your own criminal case -- advice that shouldn't be ignored. Related Resources: Al-Qaeda spokesman Abu Ghaith takes stand in own trial (BBC News) 5 Reasons Defendants Choose Not to Testify (FindLaw's Blotter) Fool Represents Self, Reported Guns Stolen with Fake ID (FindLaw's U.S. First Circuit Blog) Should You Represent Yourself in Court? (FindLaw)
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