Expungement of Criminal Records: Get the Facts

Posted on: 29 February 2016

Many people with a criminal record have problems living a normal life. For example, they might have trouble getting a job or renting an apartment because of an employer or landlord's reluctance to deal with someone who has committed a crime in the past. In certain instances, however, you can avoid these types of issues due to a legal procedure known as expungement. The following article takes a closer look at this concept.  

What It Is

Expungement involves a sealing of an individual's criminal records by the presiding jurisdiction. Once the record of a crime has been expunged, it's generally not available to people like employers and landlords. Also, if your record has been expunged by the court, you do not have to acknowledge a past arrest or conviction on documents such as employment and rental applications.  

Your records, though they are no longer available to the general public after an expungement, might still be open to certain agencies or officials. For example, if a law enforcement agency wants to investigate your past for some reason, your criminal records will usually be available to them. Government licensing boards may have access as well. Also, sealed records might be opened in immigration or deportation cases.  


The eligibility for expungement depends on the laws of your state or county. Some states, such as Arizona, do not even offer the opportunity to have your records expunged. Other states and jurisdictions might offer expungements only for those who were arrested but found not guilty or those who were convicted of misdemeanors. In certain areas, you are only eligible for an expungement if you have completed serving your sentence and any probationary period. In some instances, the laws provide for the expungement of juvenile criminal records, but not adult records. 


As with eligibility, the process of obtaining an expungement varies, depending on where the arrest or conviction occurred. You will probably need to fill out an application for expungement and give it to a district attorney or file it with a court. You might also need to attend a court hearing where the judge will make a decision after hearing your case. 

The expungement of a criminal record can make a huge difference in the life of anyone who has had a brush with the law. However, navigating the process on your own is going to be difficult for the average person, so it's probably best to have an experienced criminal defense attorney assisting you.