Criminal Law

What Crimes Are Eligible For Expungement?

Getting an expungement may offer you a clean slate if you have a criminal record. If you get an expungement, potential employers and landlords will no longer have access to your criminal record. An expungement can also make it easier to apply for government benefits and college.

But eligibility for expungement depends on a number of factors, including your state's laws and the severity and type of offense you were convicted of committing.

What Is an Expungement?

Expungement is a legal process that you can use to seal your records from the general public. This means the conviction will not show up if an employer or a landlord runs a background check. However, certain entities like law enforcement and judges will still have access to your records. For instance, if you get an expungement and are convicted of committing another crime, the courts will know about that prior conviction and could use it against you when handing down a sentence.

There may be several requirements you need to fulfill to get your records expunged or sealed. This may include waiting for a certain amount of time after you complete your sentence (including finishing parole or probation) before you can apply. You may also have to pay a fee and appear before a judge.

Most importantly, though not all criminal offenses are eligible for expungement.

Who Is Eligible for an Expungement?

Expungement has several benefits. But who qualifies for an expungement depends on a number of factors, including:

  • The laws of your state
  • The nature and severity of the crime
  • The time that has passed since your conviction
  • Your criminal history

The judge will consider these factors before ruling on an expungement request. For details and information on how you can expunge your records, visit your state criminal courts website or speak to a local criminal defense attorney about your options.

What Crimes Are Eligible?

States have their own laws outlining which crimes are eligible for expungement. Some states only allow misdemeanors to be expunged. Other states allow the expungement of felonies, except for very serious or violent crimes.

Most felonies, in general, are difficult to expunge. For instance, in Texas and Arizona, felonies can't be expunged. States like Utah and Washington, on the other hand, are more lenient on expunging felonies. Some states even make it difficult to get rid of misdemeanor drug or DUI convictions.

But there are some crimes that generally can't be expunged. These include:

  • Murder
  • Arson
  • Rape

You cannot expunge a federal criminal conviction for any type of offense. Additionally -- eight states: Alabama, Alaska, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Maine, Virginia, and Wisconsin -- have no expungement or record-sealing laws.

If you have questions about what your state allows, you should speak to a criminal defense attorney before you begin the expungement process.

When Can I Get My Records Expunged?

State laws mostly dictate how the expungement process works and which crimes are eligible. So, you should research the laws of your state to determine the specifics of when you can get your records expunged. In most cases, however, you must complete the terms of your sentence to qualify for expungement. This means more than simply getting out of prison. It also means completing parole or probation, paying fines, and completing any potential community service.

The Process of Filing for an Expungement

In most states, the expungement process starts when you or your attorney file a petition to expunge your records. In your petition, you should explain how you qualify and why you should receive an expungement. A judge will then set a hearing date to determine whether you qualify for an expungement. If your request is granted, the judge will order reporting agencies and other enforcement agencies to seal their records.

The cost of expungement varies from one state to another. Filing fees may be expensive, but most costs have a waiver if you can show economic hardship.

Effects of Expunging Your Records

An expungement seals your criminal records, but that doesn't mean the record will be destroyed. Law enforcement agencies, courts, and other government agencies will still be able to access your records. A judge, for instance, can use your expunged conviction during sentencing. But the general public, like a potential employer or a landlord, will not be able to see it.