How to Expunge a Felony Without a Lawyer

By Jessica McElrath

Because the process of expunging a felony conviction is relatively straightforward, it is not always necessary to hire a lawyer. Expunging a criminal record is a common request; therefore, many states provide detailed information and the necessary forms on their websites. Expunging a criminal record will seal the record, which makes it inaccessible to creditors and employers. However, the record is still accessible to the court and may be used to determine sentencing if you are arrested for another crime.

Determine if you are eligible for expunging your felony record. State law determines whether a criminal record qualifies for expungement. Generally, a state considers the passage of time from the date of the conviction, the fulfillment of the sentence and the severity of the crime (certain felony convictions, such as a sex offense, are often ineligible for expungement). Check the law in your state to determine whether your felony conviction is eligible for expungement.

Obtain a copy of your criminal record. Your criminal record will provide you with important details you will need to complete the petition. You can obtain your records from the court where you were convicted or from your attorney, parole officer or probation officer. You can also attain the required information from the papers you received when you were convicted.

File a petition to expunge your record in the court where the conviction occurred. On the petition, include your name, the felony offense, the date of the conviction, the sentence and your signature. In some states, such as California, you may have to file a petition to have the felony reduced to a misdemeanor along with the petition for expungement. Submit the filing fee with the petition, if applicable.

Serve the petition on the appropriate parties. Some states require you to serve a copy of the petition on the district attorney and the probation department.

Attend the hearing. Depending on state law, you may or may not be required to attend the hearing. The hearing is an opportunity for the district attorney, the probation department and other law enforcement agencies to voice their support or rejection of your petition to expunge your felony conviction. If you fail to appear at the hearing when required, the court will deny your petition. If the court grants your petition, it will issue an order that sets aside your felony conviction.

About the Author

Jessica McElrath has been a freelance writer since 2000. McElrath is the author of "The Everything John F. Kennedy Book" and "The Everything Martin Luther King Jr. Book." McElrath has a Bachelor of Arts in history from the University of California at Berkeley and a Juris Doctor from Santa Clara University School of Law.

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