Expungement is a process where a person can have official records in their criminal history effectively cleared of certain events so the general public cannot find those events when they search for a criminal history record. Although the expunged record may be available to certain law enforcement agencies and other government entities, the general population will not be able to see the expunged records when conducting a background search or other type of criminal history check.
These records are essentially sealed away – which is why expungement is sometimes known as sealing a criminal record – so that most people will not even know they exist.
Expungement offers a way to make parts of a criminal record become hidden from the public, but it can be difficult to understand all of the procedures that must be followed and petitions that must be filed to obtain one. Lawyers who do expungement law work are well-versed in these items, so finding a lawyer to help you seek an expungement can make the process substantially easier.
This directory contains a list of trustworthy expungement lawyers and law firms in your local area. Read the law firm overviews and attorney profiles in this section to learn which attorney is a good fit for your expungement case.
The Lead Counsel logo next to a law office or expungement attorney listing can also help with your search. This logo indicates that an attorney has been verified to have experience in their field of practice, is in good standing with the state entity that governs attorney licenses, and has a clean disciplinary record.
Each state has different rules about what must happen before the expunging of a criminal record can proceed. Generally, the requirements include things such as:
An attorney experienced in this area of law can tell you if you meet the state eligibility requirements to file a petition to expunge your criminal record.
There is no standard cost for an expungement, because filing fees vary by both state and county, there may be other costs (such as certified mail) required, and attorneys charge different rates for their services.
Filing fees do not just vary based on location; they may also vary based on the type of record (usually related to the severity of the crime and the charges involved) a person is looking to expunge. To show how varied the filing fees are for expunging records, look at how wide the ranges of potential fees are in California and Texas:
The best way to find the exact cost of an expungement in any particular location is to check the court website for that area and to contact attorneys near that location to find out how much they charge to handle expungement cases.
While a record of arrest for many types of criminal offenses or a criminal conviction can often be expunged, not everything qualifies for expungement. The law often lets items related to less serious offenses (infraction records and misdemeanor records) be expunged fairly easily. While records stemming from a misdemeanor conviction or arrest can often be sealed, a record of a felony offense, felony charge, or other type of more serious conviction record may not be eligible for expungement.
The eligibility rules for felony expungement are different in each state, so a local attorney can help you understand whether a particular offense qualifies for expungement under the law. Additionally, an expungement lawyer may be able to help those with felony convictions restore their rights, such as getting back the right to vote, being able to possess firearms, and generally cleaning up a criminal record that may be harming career prospects.
Expungement law in the various states can be different, and what is included in expungement does have certain limits, so hiring an attorney to handle an expungement is valuable. Properly done by a qualified attorney, an expungement may help a person start a new life and move forward without a criminal record following them around.
An experienced expungement lawyer can guide you through the complicated expungement process and make sure you do not encounter any of the problems that people often experience when seeking an expungement on their own. The attorney will handle things such as filing the expungement petition and all other necessary motions with the court and representing you in court if necessary.
Importantly, the attorney will research your old case to ensure that all eligible records are covered in the petition for expungement. These items can be spread far and wide, and include things such as a court record, arrest record, criminal charge document, court order, or other type of criminal record; no matter where they were located, an expungement can address them and help you to keep those items from harming your future.
Working with a lawyer also provides an added benefit that many expungement service providers that are not attorneys cannot offer: the attorney client relationship and the attorney-client privilege that comes with it. This privilege means that you can talk to them about your situation and know that your conversation is confidential, which may not be the case with non-lawyer expungement services.
In many states, juvenile records can be expunged or sealed, and the law in a number of states makes this process automatic when a person turns 18. In states that do not automatically expunge juvenile records, it is advisable for those with juvenile criminal records to work with an expungement attorney to petition the court for expungement, as that can make it significantly easier to obtain housing, employment, and other services.
In these situations, expungement law can remove the record of your arrest, investigation of the crime, court record, or other type of criminal record so that it will not appear when your background is checked for a job application or when you enroll in school.
If someone has successfully gone through a process known as deferred adjudication or a stay of adjudication, where the court gives them a set of conditions to follow for a set period of time, many jurisdictions will effectively expunge a criminal record automatically.
Completing probation in some jurisdictions may also lead to the automatic expunging of certain items from a person’s criminal record. Not all jurisdictions use this approach, so check your local court website or contact an attorney to find out if this applies in your area.