Most people know that a serious criminal record can follow a person throughout his or her life, but many people are surprised to discover that minor criminal offenses can wreak havoc as well.

If you have ever been convicted of (or even arrested for) a minor criminal offense like shoplifting or failure to appear, these charges could affect your ability to move forward with your life. Employers and landlords regularly ask if you have been convicted of a criminal offense, and checking "yes" could cost you a job or an apartment—no matter how minor the offense may be.

Opting to have your record expunged will ensure that your past mistakes don't affect your ability to move forward in the future. Here are three things that you need to know about expunging your records in order to use this process for your benefit.

1. Most Records Can Be Expunged, But Not All Crimes Are Eligible

When you are trying to determine if you want to invest in expunging your criminal record, it can be beneficial to look at the types of entries that are included on your criminal record before you proceed.

Many factors can affect a person's eligibility when it comes to expunging a criminal record. Some of these factors include the amount of time that has passed since the conviction, the severity of your crime, and whether or not you successfully completed the terms of your punishment and/or probation.

It can be helpful to meet with an attorney who has experience assisting clients with expunging their records to determine your eligibility as you consider expunging your own criminal record.

2. Expunging Your Record Only Goes So Far

Many people mistakenly assume that once their record has been expunged, any prior arrests or convictions will be permanently deleted from their permanent record. It's important to recognize that your prior arrests and convictions may still be accessed by police departments or certain licensing agencies.

The main purpose of expunging your records is to prevent arrests and convictions from appearing in public searches. Then landlords or employers will no longer be able to view your prior criminal history, and you can mark "no" when asked if you have been arrested or convicted of a crime when you fill out job or rental applications.

An attorney will be able to look over your prior criminal record and tell you exactly how expunging this record will affect you in the future.

3. Expunging Your Record Can Take Time

If you want to expunge your criminal record in order to prepare for an upcoming move or other major life event, you need to start the process early.

In order to successfully remove criminal arrests and convictions from your record, you will need to fill out many forms, collect supplementary evidence supporting your case, and possibly appear in court to defend your petition to have your record expunged. These steps in the process of expunging your records can take time, so you need to plan accordingly and begin working to remove your criminal record well in advance of any major life event you are preparing for.

Your attorney will be able to help you gain greater insight into the projected timeline for your individual case when you first meet to discuss expunging your criminal records.

Having the ability to remove the burden of a prior criminal record allows you to move forward and rebuild your life. Schedule an appointment with one of the experienced attorneys at Kassel & Kassel A Group of Independent Law Offices to discuss how expunging your criminal record can benefit you in the future.