How to Expunge an Old Record

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An individual arrested or convicted of a crime such as petty theft may want a fresh start without the consequences which accompany a criminal record. Instead of lying or not informing employers or landlords about your old criminal record, you can expunge it. Expunging an old criminal record refers to the process of either deleting or sealing an arrest and/ or conviction record. Expunging your criminal record has many advantages. For instance, when a judge or magistrate grants an expungement, you won't need to disclose any information about the arrest or conviction to others such as potential employers, landlords or police officials.

Investigate state rules on expungement. Each state's rules vary depending regarding eligibility requirements. For instance, eligibility requirements in a state may depend on the crime committed or the length of time the arrest or conviction has passed.

Write a motion or petition for expungement. In the motion, request the court remove the arrest or conviction and explain why you want it removed. For instance, you want to include the reason you desire the expungement such as to attend school or avail yourself of better employment opportunities

Submit the motion or petition for expungement with the county's clerk of courts. You may have to pay a filing fee.

Go to the court hearing. During a court hearing, a judge decides whether or not to expunge the old criminal record. The judge may ask you questions about the conviction and your criminal history.


  • Completing the expungement process may take from three months to longer than a year.


  • You can check with the county's criminal court or law enforcement agency where the arrest occurred to find out about eligibility requirements
  • To strengthen your case for an expungement, you may want to include other details in your motion. For instance, if you were convicted of a felony, explain that you successfully completed the conditions or terms of your sentence. If you don't have any other arrests or convictions, include that information in your motion too.
  • If you were found innocent of a crime, obtain a certificate of Actual Innocence, available in some jurisdictions. The certificate is a more powerful form of an expungement. In fact, it does more than seals or erases the old record. The Certificate of Actual Innocence establishes that you were innocent and should have never been arrested for the crime you were accused of committing.


About the Author

Demetrius Sewell is an experienced journalist who, since 2008, has been a contributing writer to such websites as Internet Brands and print publications such as "Cinci Pulse." Sewell specializes in writing news and feature articles on health, law and finance. She has a master's degree in English.

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