If one or more felony convictions that happened years ago continue to make your life difficult, there may be solutions to your problem. Oregon law includes several options for people who wish to clear their name—and their legal record.
If you’ve stayed out of legal trouble long enough, a process called “set aside,” more commonly known as expungement, may be a great option. This legal process seals the records of your criminal arrest or conviction. Afterwards, the record will no longer exist in the eyes of the state or federal government. You can lawfully deny the conviction or arrest ever occurred.
This process can even be inexpensive, and many parts of expungement are actually free. Before you get started, there are some factors you’ll want to consider.
What is Expungement?
A criminal record can haunt you for years and even decades. It shows up on background checks when you’re trying to rent a home or get a loan. Job searches become much more difficult when potential employers can gain easy evidence of your conviction.
Expungement seals the record of your conviction or arrest. Background checks won’t be able to find it anymore. Not only does it improve your career prospects and financial security, but you’ll also find new opportunities available to you. After a successful felony expungement, you can usually volunteer with more organizations, help out at your child’s school, or even adopt with greater ease.
Rules of Eligibility
Expunging a felony is meant to give people a second chance at being responsible citizens. Oregon’s legal system does a pretty good job of recognizing that people change. A bad decision or situation from many years ago doesn’t always reflect the person you are today. Three years after your conviction, many crimes become eligible for expungement. There are a lot of exceptions to that three-year rule, though, so check with a lawyer to see where you stand. Multiple convictions require a ten year wait. Certain qualifying marijuana offenses may not have the same waiting period requirements, but again this should be verified through discussion with an attorney.
To get a felony record sealed you will need to swear that you have not been convicted of any other crimes for the past ten years. While Oregon can only clear records of Oregon crimes, you still can’t have recent convictions from other states. You also cannot get your record expunged if you are still incarcerated or if you’re on probation for the crime in question.
Which Felonies Can Be Expunged?
In Oregon, Class A felonies generally cannot be expunged due to the severity of the crimes. Traffic offenses, violent felonies, and most crimes of a sexual nature are also ineligible to be expunged.
However, some Class B and most Class C felonies can be erased from your record after enough time has passed. These are some general examples, though there are many more:
- Possession of most illegal drugs
- Unauthorized Use of a Motor Vehicle
- Felon in Possession of a Firearm
- Theft in the First Degree
- Burglary in the Second Degree
While some crimes can be expunged and others can’t, all charges that qualify use the same process and similar paperwork. The state of Oregon keeps the fee structure simple too so costs are easy to estimate.
Even if you can’t expunge a conviction, there may be other legal options available. For example, many driving and sex crime felonies can be reduced to misdemeanors. If you’d like to learn about the options that fit your situation, talk to a rights restoration lawyer.
The Expungement Timeline
Once you’ve determined you are potentially eligible for expungement, it’s time to begin the process. When it comes to clearing your record, keep your expectations of speed reasonable. An expungement lawyer will tell you that the overall process can take as little as two months from start to finish. However, it is also normal to wait up to half a year or even a bit longer in some counties.
The Expungement Process
To remove a felony from your record you will submit legal forms to the county where you were convicted. The process must occur in the same court where you were originally charged or convicted. So, if you went to a municipal court, file with that same municipal court now.
The two forms you’ll be filling out are called a “motion” and an “affidavit.” They are freely available online and you are permitted to fill them out on your own, though an affidavit must be notarized.
- The motion is a respectful and official request. It asks the judicial body to consider expunging your record.
- The affidavit is where you swear you have followed all of the laws and rules required for expungement qualification.
In addition to the forms that can be found online, Oregon requires a copy of your fingerprints. Because fingerprints are unique, this lets a background check confirm your eligibility and identity. Fingerprints can usually be obtained at your local sheriff’s office and at many private businesses. Expect to pay about twenty dollars for the first set and five to ten dollars for each additional set of fingerprints. You will need one set of prints for each court in which you are filing expungements.
Fingerprints are generally served on the prosecuting attorney’s office, along with a copy of the motion and affidavit as well as the $80 fee for the Oregon State Police. Once it is served, the motion and affidavit will be filed with the court along with the court’s filing fee. Once the expungement is served and filed, the prosecuting attorney will conduct a nation-wide background check through the Oregon State Police. When the background check is complete, the prosecutor will either not oppose or object to your expungement. If there is no objection, it is unlikely you’ll have to appear in court. Objections are usually limited to eligibility issues.
Free Expungement in Oregon
While expungement is far from the most expensive legal proceeding, there are financial costs you should know about.
Accessing the expungement forms provided by your county is absolutely free. Printing and making copies might cost you a dollar or two. You’ll want to keep copies of everything you submit. That way you can always reference what you said and you’ll have a backup version on hand in case it’s needed.
Fingerprinting is another expense you may incur for about twenty dollars.
Submitting your motion and affidavit is free if you’re asking to remove the record of an arrest or eligible dismissed case. If you’d like to expunge a conviction there is a statewide fee of $281 that applies in most courts. The Oregon State Police will need to perform a background check on you, which adds another $80 fee per jurisdiction in which you file.
To keep your costs reasonable, work with a lawyer who is straightforward and clear about any and all charges. At Lohrke Law, we offer a flat service fee once you’ve told us about your case. That way you are unlikely to run into any surprises down the line.
Forms You Need for Free Expungement
To sum everything up, this list includes everything you need prepared to obtain a free expungement.
- The relevant form, signed in front of a notary:
- A complete set of your fingerprints
- A copy of your police report (optional, but makes the process faster)
- A check to cover the fee. Skip this step if you are getting a free expungement that only removes an arrest or charge from your record
Please note that if you are filing outside of Lane county, you’ll need to locate different motion and affidavit forms for your location or modify the forms above.
Should You Attempt Expungement on Your Own?
It’s tempting to approach the court on your own for an expungement without the help of an attorney. Many people think this option is simple, fast, and will save them money on lawyer fees. Expungement cases aren’t necessarily simple, though.
The paperwork requirements can be complex and you don’t want to leave out any required information. An incomplete application may be denied and you could lose the fees paid or have to appear in court.
Plus, the language of our legal system is both dense and unusual. Oregon’s expungement law is complicated in what is and what is not eligible and what applicable time frame applies. Sometimes it is possible to expunge your most recent conviction but not older ones.
If you make an error on your own, you will find that your expungement request is denied and you’ll be stuck starting over from the beginning. While they do their best to answer questions and be helpful, court staff are unable to give legal advice. If you have questions about filling out your motion and affidavit, they cannot help.
Expungement doesn’t have to be a huge expense or take up hours and hours of your time. By working with a knowledgeable Oregon rights restoration lawyer, you can feel confident that your case is being presented in the most convincing way possible and that you are only putting forward eligible cases.
Talk to Lohrke Law About Expunging Your Felony
Successfully removing a felony from your record is a freeing experience. If you’re considering this step, you’ll want to have the best possible chance of obtaining the right result. Talk to our team here at Lohrke Law to start creating a brighter future.
As lawyers with many years of experience helping people seek expungement, we know what Oregon courts want and how to navigate the complex judicial system. We know how important expungement is for our clients and make sure it’s affordable and fast. Give us a call or reach out online to tell us about your expungement goals. We would love to set up a free phone consultation to discuss your eligibility.
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