“Most people think that when you are found not guilty of a charge that charge automatically gets removed off of your record. But in reality, that’s not the case. The charge remains on your record as if you were found guilty, and the only way to get rid of those records is through an expungement.” – CLCP Legal Director Jaimee Moore.
Deborah came home to Philadelphia on March 1977. When she was released from the State Petitionary, she was given a brown paper bag with two cheese sandwiches, a container of juice, and a train ticket to return to the city. She stood on the street with no home, no money, and nowhere to go, and she had to make a choice: "Am I going to do something illegal? Or am I going to stand and fight?"
Ever since that day, Deborah has been coping with the aftermath of criminal charges as she has applied to hundreds of jobs. “I’ve been home 20 years, so my record shouldn’t affect me … but the best jobs I can get are dishwasher jobs, housekeeping jobs, the jobs where you can’t even afford to take care of yourself,” Deborah said.
Deborah connected with CLCP, and in 2014, Jaimee Moore, Legal Director, began filing expungement petitions. These petitions, once granted by the courts, erase the unconvicted charges from a person’s record.
While in the litigation process, Deborah continued to apply for more stable and secure work, and yet, once again, she was turned down. Many times, employers notice a charge on an applicant’s record, and without any further thought, they dismiss the applicant.
Unless these charges are removed through the expungement process, they stick to the individual, hampering job searches and stifling dreams. “It follows you no matter where you go,” Deborah said. “Though the stains have been washed away, I’ve been marked.”
On the day of the hearing, Deborah’s 15 petitions were cleared, and she walked out of the courtroom in joy, in celebration, and with a hope she had not known since she left the penitentiary in 1977.
Deborah is only one of many clients who come to CLCP in search of full or partial expungements. The legal process does not remove convicted charges, but there is always room for exuberant celebration as individuals like Deborah receive the ability to move forward, not with every past mistake forgotten, but with a bright hope for a future.