Erasing the Past: An Expungement Client Story

 
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When Stan was only 19-years-old, a group of guys he hung out with one night got picked up for breaking into a building. These men—who already had cases pending and who were in search of lighter sentences—claimed that Stan was with them during the break-in. Scared, but lacking the financial resources to effectively defend against the charges, Stan took the first deal that was offered to him.

When he speaks of this decision now, it is with a modicum of regret. “People want to go home; they don’t want to be caught up in there. Or they don’t have the money to fight the case. So they take the plea bargain,” he tells me. “Knowing now, I tell a lot of people: ‘When you take that plea bargain, you give up all your rights.’” 

Over the next 30 years, the weight of this felony bore down him. Even after a 20-year career in the military and with training as a Union Carpenter, Stan found himself stuck, unable to find employment. “Here’s the most important thing about it that really troubled me: I have a skillset that’s worthy of working anywhere,” he says. “But I found myself working penniless jobs just to maintain, knowing that with the skillset that I have, I deserve better and I’m able to do better.”

Stan received interview after interview, but each opportunity was lost to him as soon as the employer learned of his criminal record. Eventually, a man at the Unemployment Office recommended he visit the Legal Clinic’s Expungement Help Desk at the City-County Building.

Stan took the man’s advice and met with our Help Desk Manager Julie Mennel. Together, they looked over his record and determined the next steps he needed to take. Soon, he submitted his application. Several months later, Stan received a hearing and his expungement was approved.

“You know what made me feel good was the statement I got with my expungement, how it read all my rights have been given to me as if this stuff never happened,” he says. “And that’s just one of the greatest feelings in the world.” For Stan, the approval erased more than just the stain on his record; it took the shame of it away as well. 

Just days after receiving his expungement, Stan returned to the City-County Building looking for work. He was offered a position in Mechanical Operations. As he relates this part of his history to me now, Stan’s voice is filled with incredulity. “Can you imagine having a felony for 30 years and then getting it off my record and the next two or three days finding a job working for the government?”

Stan says he is grateful to Julie and the Help Desk for changing his life, and to the lawmakers who are responsible for the Second Chance Law. “I feel free. I feel like I’ve been in bondage,” he says. “What they’re doing is a wonderful thing.” 

To learn more about our Expungement Help Desk, please visit our website.