If it has been more than 10 years since your conviction, you may be eligible for criminal record expungement. More job opportunities, freedom to travel or emigrate, and even some consumer privileges are some of the benefits of being free of your criminal record.
Like all things bureaucratic, the entire process can be incredibly straightforward, given that the person submitting the application has a little experience in this regard. There are, however, cases where one may require the assistance of an attorney, especially when the case goes to the High Court.
That being said, let’s take a look at a typical expungement procedure.
The expungement of a criminal record starts with an application for a clearance certificate obtained from the Criminal Record Centre of the South African Police Service. The aim of this certificate is to indicate that it has been 10 years or more since the conviction or sentence, and that no subsequent convictions have occurred since.
Expungement Application Form
Once the clearance certificate has been obtained, it should be submitted along with a completed official expungement form. Any relevant documents, such a certificates indicating removal from the National Register for Sex Offenders, should be attached to the application form and submitted.
The application has to be verified. Once done, it is submitted to director-general of the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development who has the final say in the matter. The application is then returned to the police who informs the applicant.
This is where it gets interesting. Some websites on the internet promise a turnaround of as little as 48 hours for criminal record expungement. A notice on the expungement application form states that “The certificate of expungement issued by the Director-General will be submitted to the head of the Criminal Record Centre of the South African Police Service within 14 working days.” Then there’s an article which appeared on the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development’s website which states a processing time of up to four months. The short answer is: depends on application volumes, and the complexity of each individual case.
Appeals & Complicated Cases
Successful expungement applications will be communicated to the applicants – usually by their local law enforcement authority.
Individuals whose applications have been rejected may appeal to the Criminal Records Board. It may also occur that the Director-General of the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development defers the decision to the High Court. In both instances specialist legal representation is advised to ensure the best possible outcome.
Visit our criminal record expungement page for more information on expungement criteria and to see how we can help.