Many criminal convictions can be cleared from an individual’s criminal record through record sealing or expungement. This means, under certain circumstances, an individual may ask the court to erase a conviction from your permanent record, in which case, subsequent courts and law enforcement officials may not have access to certain elements of your criminal past. The following are criteria wherein your criminal record may be cleared: 

  • If on probation, you can clear your record if:
    • You have finished your probation
    • You have followed all court orders
    • And there are no new charges against you
  • If not on probation, you can clear your record if:
    • One year has passed since your judgment
    • You have obeyed all laws subsequent to your judgment
    • And there are no new charges against you
  • However, certain crimes may never be cleared from you record, such as:

What Does it Mean to "Expunge" a Criminal Record?

An expungement of a criminal record is the same as clearing your criminal record. An expungement removes a criminal offense from your record for most purposes.
Other terms that are used in record clearing are “expunction”, “removal of records”, or “destruction of records”. In general, all of these terms refer to similar processes involving the clearing of criminal records.  If you’re confused about what these different terms mean, a criminal defense lawyer can explain how they might affect your situation.

Can All Felonies be Cleared off my Record?

No. Unfortunately, most states limit the types of felony charges and convictions that can be cleared or expunged. Typically, violent felonies, sex offenses, and other serious crimes cannot be expunged. However, this varies from state to state.

Additionally, some states do not permit the expungement of felony convictions. In these states, you may be able to expunge felony criminal records only if the charges were dismissed, withdrawn, pardoned, or resulted in a non-conviction (such as deferred sentencing or a not guilty finding).

Once I Have Cleared My Record, Can it Still Be Used against Me?

Even if your record is clear, the following situations might still affect you: 

  • A cleared conviction can still count against you as a prior offense if you have another case in the future
  • A cleared conviction can still count if the court is considering revoking or suspending your driver’s license
  • If any government agency asks you directly about your prior convictions, you must tell them of your cleared status
  • You must still obey your jurisdiction’s statute, if one does exist, about not owning or possessing a weapon

Why Is It Important to Clear My Record?

Many have easy access to criminal records since it's easy to find and inexpensive. Having a criminal record may affect your ability to find a job since many places conduct criminal background checks. It will also be harder to rent apartments since many tenants go through a background investigation. The more time that has passed since the conviction, presentation of rehabilitation and credible sources that show good character are all essential in trying to convince a judge to grant a record clearance.

Should I Contact a Lawyer about My Criminal Record?

If you have questions about the status of your criminal record, or want to attempt to have your record cleared, the advice of a criminal defense attorney can be extremely helpful.