Expungement is the legal procedure used to destroy or seal the records of a case. The exact definition of expungement varies greatly among states. Each state offers different types of record clearing or expungement relief, and each of those legal procedures can use different terminology and have different effects on the criminal record. Examples of record clearing services include: expungement, record sealing, setting aside a conviction, vacating a conviction, and orders of non-disclosure. To get specific expungement information for your state, please click here or choose the state in which you have a record from the drop down menu above.
The Expungement Process
The process, much like the laws and terminology, differs widely among states. The process will generally involve initial research to obtain the court documents, which will contain the information required on the expungement petition. That information is then included in the application or petition, which is filed, along with any supporting documents required by the court, in the county in which the case occurred. The petition is usually also submitted to the district attorney or prosecutor’s office for their review; they are provided time to review and respond to the petition. Once the court receives the petition, they will either set a hearing date or submit the petition to the judge for a decision to be made.
The timeframe for the entire expungement process also differs from court to court, ranging anywhere from 2-6 months on average. To get a more accurate estimate on how long your expungement may take, please take our confidential eligibility test and review the information on the service for which you are eligible.
Effects of an Expungement
After your arrest or conviction is expunged, sealed, set aside, or vacated, you can feel more confident applying for jobs or housing. The law varies from state to state, but generally, you do not have to disclose your expunged conviction when applying for a job, to a school, or for housing. An expungement is a great way to put your past behind you and open up many opportunities, allowing you to focus on the future.
Depending on the laws in your state, the arrest may remain on your record and appear on higher-level background checks that require fingerprinting; in those instances, the case would appear as dismissed, because the conviction (finding of guilt) has been removed from your record. In other states, an expungement is a complete removal of the case from your criminal record and the records of the case are destroyed. Background checks that search for convictions (the type performed by many employers) normally will not reveal an expunged case, because the case has either been completely removed from your record or because it is no longer considered a conviction
Can I Get an Expungement?
Eligibility requirements for expungement vary widely among states. However, some felony and misdemeanor offenses that may be eligible to be expunged or sealed include:
Indiana Bill Seeks to Improve Current Expungement Law
Last year Indiana passed an expungement law, known as the Second Chance Law, which permits expungement of certain convictions. The Second Chance Law was welcome news for former offenders in Indiana, but it is also a very complex law and several problems have arisen in the past several months. HB 1155 will cure several issues that have arisen under the expungement law. Read More
Expungement Services Now Available in Oregon
The services available in Oregon will include conviction expungement, dismissed case expungement, juvenile case expungement, firearm rights restoration, probation termination, felony reduction, and termination of sex offender registration. Oregon law allows some individuals with a criminal history to have their records cleared. This relief in Oregon is known as a "set aside" or an "expungement." Read More
8 Ways an Expungement or Criminal Record Sealing Can Help You
Millions of Americans are facing challenges everyday because a criminal record from their past continues to haunt them. A prior arrest or conviction prevents former offenders from reintegrating into society, but an expungement or sealing can help these individuals have the life they desire and deserve. Expunging your criminal record can help with the challenges that you might face when trying to move forward. After your criminal record is sealed or expunged, you can put those old mistakes behind you. Read More
Ban the Box: Helping Former Offenders Find Employment
Ban the Box, a campaign to end discrimination against those with criminal convictions, has been taking off across the country over the past several years. Ban the Box legislation has recently started to be enacted at the state level. Under these laws, job applications cannot include a "box" asking about criminal history. However, employers will still be able to ask about criminal history later in the screening process, either at the interview or with background checks. Read More
New Illinois Law Expands Expungement To Include Some Felony Offenses
A new Illinois law, which goes into effect on January 1, 2014, allows people convicted of certain Class 3 and 4 felony offenses to seal their records. This change in the expungement law expands eligibility for record clearing relief in Illinois and will allow more former offenders to secure employment, apply for housing, and move forward with their lives.