What does it mean to vacate a conviction? This term is used in a court of justice whenever a defendant pleads guilty as part of a plea bargain. It typically occurs if they believe they were unjustly convicted and choose to set aside the verdict. When a conviction is vacated, it means the first trial’s sentence is negated so that prosecutors have another opportunity to pursue their case. If certain conditions are met, such as an ineffective assistance of counsel, significant misconduct from the jury, or a breach of a plea agreement, then a defendant will be eligible for vacating a conviction.
The process starts with getting a criminal defense lawyer on board to examine one’s criminal record documents. If the case happened years ago and was already resolved, then a background check would be necessary. Successfully vacating a conviction should remove some of the social stigma associated with the crime. This would otherwise affect a person’s ability to apply for a job, find housing, get an education, or take out loans. As a legal service, it’s cost will vary depending on the state the trial was held in.
By petitioning the court to withdraw a guilty plea, they can wipe off all traces of the crime from their permanent record. However, there are some caveats to whether someone can vacate their felony convictions. For instance, felonies classified under class A cannot be vacated due to the severity of the crime. Furthermore, they cannot already have other pending criminal convictions. This person must also pay off all their fines and fees. If they were issued a restitution, they must complete required community service hours.