How to Erase a Criminal History

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You can take two legal avenues to erase your criminal history. You can have your criminal record sealed or expunged. Every state varies on their procedures and regulations in sealing or expunging criminal records. Only the court where you were convicted of a crime has jurisdiction over this matter. A federal record can never be sealed or expunged, even if a presidential pardon is given. Every jurisdiction has different laws in determining who is eligible for an expunged or sealed record.

Hire an Experienced Attorney

The first step to erasing your criminal history would be to contact the American Bar Association and find an attorney experienced in expunging or sealing criminal records. The lawyer also needs to be located in the jurisdiction where you were convicted of a crime.

Go to the court where you were convicted of a crime and petition to either have your record sealed or expunged.

Go to court on the date that's been scheduled. You will have your case heard by a judge, once the appropriate paperwork has been submitted. The judge will review your case to determine whether he will have your criminal record expunged or sealed.


  • If you are successful in erasing your criminal history and are subsequently convicted of a crime, you will not be treated as though you don't have any prior convictions. If you apply to purchase a firearm in Florida and your records are sealed, gun retailers will be able to view your criminal record and you will be denied the ability to buy a gun. If your record has been expunged, gun retailers will be denied access to your criminal record, but the retailers will be informed that you have a record.


  • If you cannot afford an attorney, contact the local legal aid office or the public defenders' office in the location where you were convicted and ask for assistance. Several websites advertise a low-cost way to have your record expunged or sealed. You can check them out on the Better Business Bureau website. There are many scams out there, and you want to protect yourself from falling victim to those scams.



About the Author

Jeff Stein began writing in 2006. He has written for a variety of websites on a variety of topics ranging from aviation to criminal justice, dogs and travel. Stein has a Bachelor of Arts in radio television and film from California State University, Northridge.