More and more often in recent decades, particularly in cases of extremely
violent crimes resulting in a sentence of capital punishment, the news
has been filled with stories of wrongfully convicted inmates being exonerated
by DNA evidence. As technology improves, many people who have been convicted
of crimes are having those convictions vacated or reversed. Unfortunately,
however, this does not always mean they are able to move on with their lives.
Many of these inmates are released from prison when their guilty verdicts
are overturned but they do not always get the fresh start they deserve.
A recent study found that about one third of exonerated inmates still
have the wrongful conviction on their record. While their physical freedom
is important, of course, it can be impossible for them to embrace that
freedom and move on with their lives.
A criminal record can make it difficult to secure employment or housing,
even when the conviction has been vacated. While many states have passed
legislation that prevents employers from asking about criminal history
until an interview with an applicant, the stigma associated with a criminal
conviction can be difficult to overcome even if the applicant was later
found not guilty.
Adding to that difficulty are several obstacles to record clearing and
expungement for the wrongfully convicted. Each state has its own laws
and process governing the process but it tends to be time-consuming, expensive
and complicated. In addition, some states have refused expungement in
cases where there was insufficient evidence to convict an inmate again
but the state still viewed them as guilty.
If you have a concern about your criminal record, particularly if you were
wrongfully convicted, an experienced criminal defense attorney may be
able to help.
Source: The New York Times, “Wrongfully Convicted Often Find Their Record,
Unexpunged, Haunts Them,” Jack Healy, May 5, 2013