Choosing To Remain Positive

What Does Criminal Record Expungement Amount To?

A judge can order the expungement of a person's criminal record under specific certain circumstances. You might wonder, though, whether it's worth the effort to petition the court and go through the process. It's important to understand what expungement amounts to so let's examine the idea.


In most U.S. states, people are only eligible for expungement once they've fulfilled all of the requirements of their sentences. Suppose a judge ordered someone to pay restitution, court and supervision costs, and fines on top of serving jail time and probation. That individual has to pay every nickel the judge ordered, plus any interest or additional penalties that might have accumulated. Likewise, they have to have completed the jail term and the probation period.

Presuming the person has done all of that, they may be eligible under criminal record expungement law. Notably, a judge has broad power to reject a request. However, judges usually don't do this unless there's a compelling reason. Generally, when a judge rejects a request, it's because the original conviction involved extreme acts of violence, something that put the defendant on the sex offender list, or a serious violation of the public trust, such as embezzlement or fraud.

What Expungement Does

In the strictest sense, a judge expunging a person's record does not make it go completely away. However, it does remove the individual's criminal record from the public view. If the judge granted the petition, third parties can't look somebody's record up in criminal databases for background checks. This can have a major impact on renting property or applying for employment.

What the judge does is place the criminal records under seal. Those records still exist, but the only way anyone, even the police, can look at them is by asking the judge to lift the seal. Normally, judges only lift the seal on criminal records if there is an immediate and compelling reason, such as an impending or active serious crime. Otherwise, even law enforcement faces major hurdles looking under the seal.

How Does Expungement Work?

You will send a written petition to the jurisdiction where the convictions occurred. If you committed offenses in multiple counties, you will have to note each county in the application. Likewise, folks applying for expungement of records in multiple states must apply separately in each state. It's a good idea to ask a criminal record expungement attorney for assistance so you can be sure you have all of the details right.