Expungements – What You Need to Know
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Expungement Eligibility
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In general, only the person who committed the crime can ask for an expungement. In other words, if your family member, significant other, or a friend committed a crime, you could not obtain an expungement for them. The actual person who commits the crime must request the expungement (except for some limited situations). So, what are the requirements to obtain an expungement?

Well, every jurisdiction can treat expungements differently, but there are some general requirements that most (if not all) jurisdictions require. The general requirements to obtain an expungement include:
  • You usually must be a first-time offender.
    • This means that you were convicted of a particular crime for the first time (i.e. it cannot be your second or third offense).
    • In some situations, you can have multiple offenses expunged if the offenses were related and occurred within a short time period (e.g. 90 days or less).
  • You must wait until the final discharge of your crime
    • This means you have served all of your jail and/or probationary time, and you’ve paid all other sanctions or penalties
  • You may have to wait for a statutory period of time before you apply
    • In other words, the court may make you wait for a certain period of time after your final discharge before you can even apply for expungement (i.e. you cannot apply for your expungement the week after you finish your sentence). What is the purpose of this statutory requirement? It helps to show the court that you have maintained a clean criminal record, all except for the crime you want expunged.
    • You may have to wait for 1 year or more for crimes like misdemeanors.
    • You may have to wait 3 years or more for more serious crimes like felonies.
  • No prior or subsequent criminal convictions

Crimes That Cannot Be Expunged

As previously mentioned, every jurisdiction has different laws on how (or if) expungements are handled. For example, each state sets its own rules on whether crimes can be expunged and how and when certain crimes are expunged. So, an expungement may not be available to you in your jurisdiction. Additionally, certain crimes are generally not allowed to be expunged, including:
  • First and second degree felonies (very serious felonies)
  • Sex offense crimes
  • Child abuse crimes, i.e. crimes against minor (under the age of 18)
  • Violent offense crimes
  • DUI convictions
NOTE: You should be aware that the federal government does not have to honor an expungement. Under federal law (and certain state laws), an expungement of a conviction does not necessarily relieve a person from having to disclose it in an application for the military, public office, or on some professional license applications. For example, even if you obtain an expungement in your state for a crime, you may have to disclose that crime if you apply for the military or plan on becoming a lawyer or doctor.

Next, we’ll go over the differences between expungements and pardons – an often confused topic.