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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Legal Aid announces free help for those seeking to expunge criminal records

Legal Aid Society Executive Director Félix Vélez Alejandro

By The Star Staff

The Legal Aid Society of Puerto Rico (SAL) has launched its new Community Reentry Program, which offers free legal services to indigent people who need to clear their criminal record and obtain a certificate of good standing.

In the case of misdemeanor convictions, six months must have elapsed after the person finished the imposed sentence. When a person has been convicted of a felony – which is not subject to the sex offender and child abuse registry or the convicted corruption offender’s registry – he or she may go to court to obtain an order to expunge the conviction from the criminal record. However, there are certain conditions the applicant must have met. For instance, five years must elapse after the sentence has been completed and no crime can be committed during that time.

The person should have a good reputation among the community, and, if subject by law, submit a DNA sample as required by the DNA Data Bank Act.

Under the reentry program, other services will be offered, such as the return of mugshots and fingerprints at the state agencies after exoneration. Furthermore, orientation and legal services will be offered to those interested in being removed from the sex offender and child abuse registry, or other state registries, after completing the imposed sentence.

SAL Executive Director Félix Vélez Alejandro noted that “SAL still continues to lead the way in indigent criminal legal services after 69 years.”

Last year, SAL started the Program for Legal Assistance in Mental Health Proceedings, which as of December 2023 had attended to nearly 1,972 cases and intervened in 4,994 legal hearings. Both programs exist thanks to funds from the American Rescue Plan Act administered under the Puerto Rico Fiscal Agency and Financial Advisory Authority.

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