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What is a Misdemeanor & How Long
Does It Stay On Your Record?

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C.L. Mike Schmidt Published by C.L. Mike Schmidt

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Misdemeanor offenses are not as consequential as felony offenses, yet more severe than an infraction.  Thus, knowing how long a misdemeanor conviction will remain on your criminal record is essential.

With a decade of experience in criminal law, I understand the complexities of misdemeanor charges.  The reality is that there’s no single way to answer; however, by analyzing each case, we can arrive at an informed conclusion on how best to proceed legally.

Quick Summary

  • A misdemeanor will stay on your record until you file for expungement.
  • Compared to a felony conviction, misdemeanor expungement is much more accessible, making it an attractive option for many people.
  • The misdemeanor is gone if the court agrees to your request and expunges your record. If people ask about your criminal history on applications, you can truthfully say you have never been convicted.

What Is A Misdemeanor?

A lawyer writing down the definition of demeanorA misdemeanor is a minor offense, one which is quite common.  Although the most extreme punishment for misdemeanors can include up to 12 months of imprisonment, penalties will usually likely consist of probation periods, fines, and community service obligations [1].

Even though misdemeanors are considered crimes, they will still appear in criminal background checks.  Thus, individuals convicted of a misdemeanor should not forget to affirmatively respond “Yes” when asked whether or not they possess any legal indictments on their record. Being accused of a misdemeanor offense can leave long-lasting marks on your record, with some misdemeanors remaining there for up to two years. 

Trespassing and certain forms of sexual harassment are categorized as misdemeanor offenses that will be permanently stored in your legal history for two full years from the date it occurred.  The charge will remain on your records for more severe misdemeanor offenses for up to a decade.  If you’ve been charged with domestic violence or driving while intoxicated, your offense won’t vanish from criminal history reports until approximately ten years after it happened.

Consequently, this record might appear in criminal background checks during that period.

Related Article: Convicted of a Misdemeanor

What Is a Criminal Record?

A lawyer looking at a criminal record

A criminal record is a written document that reveals any convictions or charges currently attributed to you.  To prevent misunderstanding, we shall refer to misdemeanor charges and criminal convictions as ” misdemeanors.”

Criminal records can include the following information:

  • The court of law in which your case was heard
  • When did the criminal offense take place?
  • A court report may consist of an individual’s prior criminal history to help inform their decision.

A misdemeanor will remain in your criminal history indefinitely, which can have long-lasting consequences.  If you are unsure of the period it will remain on your record, our experienced attorneys can provide clarity.

Related Article: Types of Criminal Protective Orders

How Long Does A Misdemeanor Stay On Your Record?

A lawyer reading and writing on a bookThe amount of time a misdemeanor stays on your record may differ from one state to another.  In most states, for instance, it will be five years from the incident’sincident’s date.

In addition to other factors that can impact the period, a misdemeanor remains on your record.  Probation often involves specific conditions that extend this timeframe.  If you fail to abide by these requirements while serving probation, your criminal offense will remain visible for an extended duration.

Related Article: What if I Miss My Court Date for a Misdemeanor?

“Misdemeanor offenses will linger on your criminal record for two years from the date of conviction. This timeline is mostly followed by states when it comes to documenting such records.”
James Reilly, Attorney

Do Misdemeanors Show Up On A Background Check?

Yes, misdemeanors show up on a background checkEven though a misdemeanor is considered minor compared to more severe crimes, it’s still illegal and can have lasting repercussions.  As part of their background check process, employers may discover any past misdemeanors you were charged with.

Usually, misdemeanor charges are only filed at the county level.  If your employer decides to do a criminal background check on you, they can find out about this charge if it is in the records of that particular county.  However, most employers ignore a minor misdemeanor offense at the county level and focus solely on federal or state charges.

It cannot be guaranteed that your employer will not discover your misdemeanor offense; usually, county courts share their criminal records with state offices. This means that even at the state level, these records are available to view [2].

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Can A Misdemeanor Conviction Be Expunged?

A woman looking at misdemeanor convictionsYes, a misdemeanor conviction can be expunged.  You can apply to have this offense expunged within two years after you receive your court order.  Once all paperwork and forms are submitted, a small fee must be paid to complete the process. In some scenarios, you may be able to have a misdemeanor charge removed from your public criminal records.

Some persons can eradicate their misdemeanor offenses from public records.  Nevertheless, other states may not permit the expungement of misdemeanors under any circumstances.

Here are several qualifying scenarios in which people can wipe out these minor criminal charges:

  • Upon successful completion of your probationary period without any further infractions
  • If you are a minor and have been found guilty of a delinquent act
  • For cases of first-time alcohol or drug possession
  • The court expunged your record due to its age
  • If the court determined you were not guilty due to a mental or physical illness
  • If your misdemeanor charge was dismissed and you pose no danger to the public, you are free from legal repercussions

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FAQs

How Long Does It Take A Misdemeanor To Go Away?

A misdemeanor does not go away. Despite being considered a criminal conviction, the court can permit you to have your misdemeanor sealed or expunged if some time has passed since its origin. By petitioning for it, there is still hope of having that part of your past forgotten.

What Is The Difference Between Sealing And Expunging?

The difference between sealing and expunging is that sealing is the practice of securely locking records away, granting access to them solely to government or law enforcement agencies. Expungement eliminates your criminal past, protecting it from prying eyes. When you have had a record expunged, no one can access the information about your former legal issues.

Does a Class C misdemeanor stay on your record? 

Yes, a Class C misdemeanor does stay on your record. 

Are You Facing a Misdemeanor Charge?

If you’re uncertain how long a misdemeanor will remain on your record, consulting an experienced criminal defense attorney is the wisest course of action.

At Schmidt & Clark, LLP our expert professionals can help you take the proper steps after receiving charges.

Rest assured that our lawyers are more than capable of answering any questions and providing timely advice. Connect with us today for further assistance!


References:

  1. https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/misdemeanor
  2. https://www.mass.gov/guides/guide-to-criminal-records-in-employment-and-housing

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