Expungement rules vary dramatically from state to state. Typically, it is easier to expunge or seal minor crimes and juvenile records. However, some states do permit felony expungements.
Typically, you must meet state-specific criteria before you petition the court for an expungement. Depending on where you live, these criteria may include:
- Completing a waiting period,
- Meeting the terms of your conviction (including probation and the payment of fines and restitution),
- Evidence that you do not have not have subsequent criminal charges or convictions, and
- Evidence that you are rehabilitated and contribute to society (through employment, education, or volunteer work).
A lawyer can help you understand whether you are eligible for an expungement.
Once you meet your state’s eligibility criteria, you can file a petition for expungement. You may have to attach other information, such as a certified copy of your criminal record, to your petition. You also may have to pay court and record fees associated with your request.
The court will typically notify law enforcement and the prosecutor who handled your criminal charges. If the authorities do not object to your petition, the judge may decide to approve your request without a hearing. However, an expungement hearing is typically scheduled. You will have an opportunity to present your case to the judge and explain why an expungement is merited and necessary. If the authorities object to your request, they will also have a chance to present their arguments against an expungement.
Can All Felonies be Expunged?
No. Unfortunately, most states limit the types of felony charges and convictions that can be 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 In these states, you may be able to expunge felony criminal records only if the charges were dismissed, withdrawn, pardoned, or resulted in a non-conviction (such as deferred sentencing or a not guilty finding).
If a Felony is Expunged, Does That Mean It Is Totally Erased From My Record?
In most states, an expunged felony is not a public record. In other words, you do not have to report it on job, housing, or education-related applications. If a potential employer performs a background search, it typically will not show up.
However, there are limits to this protection. Law enforcement agencies can still view expunged records. For example, law enforcement and the courts may be able to consider expunged charges if they impact sentencing in a later case.
And, many states require the disclosure of expunged offenses if you are seeking a job involving law enforcement or children. You also may have to disclose your expunged charges if you apply for a professional license (such as a legal, medical, or pharmacy license).
Do I Need a Lawyer for Assistance With Getting a Felony Expunged?
In order to expunge or seal a felony, you must follow strict procedural rules, present evidence, and may have to testify at a hearing. Due to these requirements, you may benefit from hiring a seasoned expungement lawyer.