Criminal Defense

Expungements, Pardons & Set-Asides in Criminal Cases

Chandler | Conway

Chandler | Conway

Monday May 23, 2011

Typically, a record showing past contact with law enforcement is not good for employment purposes. Often, people at some point in time are in the wrong place at the wrong time or have a brief error in judgment which results in a criminal conviction on their permanent record. Most people who fall into this category are dealing with an offense that in some way involves drugs or alcohol, such as a DUI, MIP or Possession of Marijuana. Unfortunately, in Nebraska there are only three ways to have something removed from your criminal record: an expungement, pardon or set-aside.
For some reason expungement is the first word that comes to mind for most people when seeking to have something removed from their criminal record. However, expungements are governed by Neb. Rev. Stat. § 29-3523, and are only applicable when no conviction was ever received.

An expungment only removes an entry on your criminal history, not a conviction. In other words if your DUI lawyer or criminal defense lawyer was able to get your charges dismissed or have you entered into a diversion program which resulted in your DUI charges or criminal charges being dismissed, then you may be eligible for an expungment. In fact, in most of the previously mentioned scenarios the criminal entry on your record should automatically be removed by law.
The next term that is commonly tossed around is pardon. A pardon is when the Governor or Mayor (depending on whether the crime was based on a state statute vs. a city ordinance) decides to “pardon” your crime, thus restoring a certain status and various civil liberties. For most serious offenses, pardons are controlled by the State of Nebraska Board of Pardons. To receive a pardon you must file an application with the appropriate office, and you must have a pretty compelling argument for the Nebraska Board of Pardons. Pardons are not often given. They can take significant time and can be quite expensive.
The last term, which you do not hear very often, is set-aside. Conviction set asides are governed by Neb. Rev. State. § 29-2264, and are the most common way of having a criminal entry on your record disposed of. In English, a set aside is when after you have been convicted of a criminal offense, your criminal attorney takes your case back in front of the judge who sentenced you and requests that your conviction be “set aside”. The way a set aside shows up on your record is just that; your record will show that you were convicted of a criminal offense such as Driving Under the Influence and then later that the conviction was “set aside”. In order to be eligible for a set-aside, you cannot have served any jail time as part of your sentence, and you must have completed all terms of probation successfully and/or paid any fines and costs in full.

A set aside can be extremely helpful when seeking new employment; however, it is not a magic wand which erases the conviction completely from your criminal record. Once a conviction has been “set aside”, you are not required to list that conviction on a job application; but employers who do extensive enough background checks will still see the relevant entries on your criminal history report. It is always a judgment call, but often times the best way to use a set aside is to help explain a situation, rather than hide it. If you have a past run-in with law enforcement that is currently haunting you or making it difficult to find work, consult with a criminal defense attorney nearby to decide whether any of the above options are a good idea for you.

Chandler | Conway

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