When you are applying for a job or up for a background check, one of your bigger worries is that people will find your criminal records. Such a discovery could make them take back a job offer or keep them from giving you a place to live. Even after your sentence is completed, you may be living with the effects of a conviction for the rest of your life. In fact, anyone with the knowledge (or who is obligated) can access much of your criminal record (including potential partners and friends) and leaves you vulnerable to the other effects of criminal charges. Mistakes that you make can follow you in life for a long time.
Anyone Can View or Obtain Criminal Records
In Wisconsin, your criminal history is a matter of public record. It is available online, and anyone can find it. They do not even need to perform a background check on you to learn this information. They can simply go onto a state or county website. This availability is the case for most counties in Wisconsin that maintain an online database. Even if the information is not available online, anyone can request this information and can obtain copies of records by paying a fee. In some cases, people are required to check these records. These rules apply to state law criminal history only. Federal charges have their own separate laws, and access to this information is far more restricted than Wisconsin records.
When Viewable Criminal Records Are Created
You may be surprised to know that you have a traceable record online far more often than you think. The following things could lead to the creation of a criminal record:
- Being arrested by a law enforcement agency
- Prosecutors filing charges against you
- When a complaint or citation is filed with the court
- When law enforcement submits a fingerprint record after an arrest
Any one of these records will go into a local or state repository for criminal records, with the potential of causing you embarrassment and upheaval.
These Records Could Remain Accessible Forever
Removal of these records from public view is not automatic by any means. If you are convicted of the charges, the chances are that the conviction will remain on your record permanently. Wisconsin has a law that allows for expungement of criminal records (the public cannot see the conviction, but it remains on your record), but the law is one of the strictest ones in the country. The law may change in the near future, as the Wisconsin Assembly has been considering a law to broaden expungement, but that is not yet a reality.
When You Can Expunge Arrest and Criminal Records
Right now, expungement in Wisconsin is very limited. In order to have the record expunged, the offense must meet the following criteria:
- It must have been committed when the defendant was under the age of 25.
- It was a juvenile offense committed under the age of 17.
- The defendant was found not guilty by reason of mental infirmity.
Not all crimes are eligible for expungement. Only offenses that resulted in a sentence of six years imprisonment or less may be expunged. This condition encompasses a large majority of convictions, but again, there is a strict age limit on expungement. Normally, you would ask for expungement during the court proceedings for the offense itself.
Arrest Records Have the Same Status as Convictions
Even arrest records remain available online in most circumstances. Even if you are acquitted of the charges, the public will still be able to see that you have been arrested. While Wisconsin law prohibits employers from considering arrests in making decisions, these are still records that you do not want in the public realm. The records will only be removed if the court drops the charges against you. Otherwise, the records are subject to the expungement rule, meaning they can be expunged upon request if they otherwise meet the requirements of the law.
It is important that you are vigilant about checking your own records. If someone else can see your criminal and arrest history, you can search it yourself. If you find anything that may qualify for expungement, you should be vigilant about making the request to have your records sealed from the general public. It can only benefit you in the long run.
How Your Criminal Records Can Impact Your Life
In addition, you must be careful about how you deal with criminal charges. Pleading guilty can give you a permanent record that could remain with you forever and could complicate things, such as:
- Your ability to find a job (some professions are required to run criminal background checks and cannot hire people convicted of felonies)
- Finding a place to live
- Your custody matter
- The right to own a firearm
You Must Consider Everything When Deciding How to Handle Criminal Charges
This is not to say that you should always fight charges and never plea bargain. However, a full assessment of your situation and options is something else that should be a part of your considerations when you decide what course of action to take after being charged. How to handle criminal charges is not a decision that you should make alone, especially because you may only be considering your immediate future as opposed to longer-term consequences. The ramifications of your case are something that an experienced criminal defense attorney would consider in advising you on how to deal with the charges. They will consider this if they end up negotiating with the prosecutor.
Experienced Criminal Defense Attorneys
If you have been arrested, you must get legal help immediately. What you do from the moment that you are arrested can literally determine your future. The experienced attorneys at Hogan Eickhoff look at the entire circumstances of your case in giving you the advice that you need for the best legal outcome. Call us today at (920) 450-9800 or contact us online to schedule your free initial consultation. No matter what you are charged with, we will defend you vigorously.