A criminal drug conviction can haunt an individual for years. Potential employers, landlords, creditors and even government agencies often make immediate judgments upon seeing marks on an individual’s history.

While it is possible to seal recent criminal drug convictions, doing so can be complicated and time-consuming.

A waiting game

The first step toward filing a petition to seal a criminal drug conviction is fairly simple: Wait.

Criminal drug convictions are not eligible for sealing immediately upon an individual’s release or disposition of criminal proceedings. The law requires specific waiting periods before a petition to seal is possible. The length of time depends on the offense.

For example:

  • Petty drug offenses, petition may be filed one year after final disposition;
  • Any drug misdemeanor, petition may be filed two years after final disposition;
  • Level 3 or 4 drug felony, petition may be filed three years after final disposition;
  • All other offenses require an individual to wait five years to file a petition.

This is just a small sample of different waiting periods. The law includes a number of exceptions and references that can quickly complicate matters.

What happens next?

After a petition to seal a criminal drug conviction is filed, there are several procedural implications that a person must be aware of to successfully complete sealing the record.

In matters involving less-serious offenses, the court may quickly order to seal the record. In other instances, the court may choose to hold a hearing before making a determination. The district attorney also has the right to object to the petition.

A petitioner must show they have not been convicted of, or charged with, any additional offense since the disposition of criminal proceedings. Further, the petitioner cannot have their records sealed if they owe restitution, fines or fees.

Understandably individuals with criminal drug convictions on their record are eager to seal them. While doing so is generally possible, it often requires one to navigate a complex web of legal restrictions.