Criminal Law

How Much Does An Expungement Cost?

Expungement is the legal process of removing convictions from your criminal record. Depending on the laws in your state, you may seek out an expungement for misdemeanor convictions as well as some felonies.

For example, some states like California allow expungements and have their own rules for having a conviction removed from your record. Other states like New York may only allow for sealing prior convictions, meaning the record will still exist, but it will no longer be public.

If your state allows convictions to be expunged, then the next step is usually determining how much this will cost. As you may expect, the cost for expungement varies based on many factors, so it helps to break down the costs piece by piece.

Court Costs

First, there will be standard court costs associated with the expungement process, and in some states an application fee. These generally range from $100 to $400. However, depending on the details of your case, this could cost more.

Furthermore, there are usually filing fees along with your court costs, which may be specific to your state or local county court. This is simply a payment for the processing of your paperwork, so a complicated case that involves more paperwork — such as trying to have a felony removed instead of a misdemeanor — may come with higher filing fees due to the increased work required of the court.

Attorney Fees

Estimating attorney fees can be tricky since many factors play into how much legal work is required. If you hire a criminal defense attorney to represent you and help you through this complex process, you have to pay the hourly rate that your attorney asks for. Your attorney should tell you this cost at your first consultation, and then your bill will have a breakdown of the hours they spent working to expunge your conviction.

One way to stay within your budget is to interview a few different attorneys and receive estimates to see which one is in your price range. Many criminal law attorneys offer free initial consultations to discuss your situation and talk about their fees with future clients.

Estimates for the cost of an expungement range from a low end of $400 to a high end of $4,000, though the attorney you choose really makes all the difference. Once again, the complexity of the case plays into it. The more hours the attorney needs to spend sorting through the information and filling out the paperwork, the more it will cost.

Misdemeanor Versus Felony

Typically, expungements are used for less serious offenses, and the cost varies greatly depending on what type of offense you are trying to expunge and the laws of your jurisdiction. Misdemeanor expungements are more common than felonies, as you cannot expunge some felony convictions. For instance, some states do not allow expungements for felonies involving a sexual or violent offense. On the other hand, some states may allow a felony DUI to be expunged.

Accordingly, there may be more legal work involved in having a felony conviction expunged, so it may require more in attorney's fees. This is a topic you can discuss with your criminal defense attorney during your initial consultation.

Fees Along the Way

Often, the court costs and other fees will not come in a lump sum, but they will simply come up as you move through the process. You will have to take care of each fee promptly for the case to continue. For example, in Florida, there is a $75 fee due to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement when you have paperwork put in to check if you are eligible to have your record expunged. You could have to pay this even if it turns out that you are ineligible and there is nothing else you can do.

Additional Costs of the Case

Finally, you need to know that your original criminal case itself has been resolved for your record to be expunged. If you were ordered to serve some type of sentence like community service or go on probation, that must come to an end first. Likewise, if you owe money connected to the case — perhaps you are paying restitution or paying fines to the state — then you have to settle those debts first. Getting your record expunged is simply a way to clear that record, not to avoid all connected fines, fees, and sentences.