Only minor alcohol-related convictions and deferred judgments can be expunged from an Iowa criminal record. A deferred judgment is where the court allows you to successfully complete a probationary period in lieu of serving a jail sentence. You can also petition the court to have dismissals or acquittals of old criminal cases removed from your record. Expunging a case means that the public will no longer be able to see it in the public records. The record does not disappear completely, however, since the court, prosecutors and law enforcement officials are still able to access the information in certain circumstances.
Expunging Alcohol-Related Offenses
If you were convicted of being intoxicated in public, you can petition the court that handed down the conviction to expunge your record after two years have passed since the conviction. You must not have received any other convictions in the meantime, except minor traffic violations. Minors convicted for consuming or possessing alcohol under the legal age can apply for expungement after the same two-year period has passed.
Expunging Completed Deferred Judgments
Another basis for seeking expungement is where the outcome of your case was a deferred judgment and you were put on probation. If the deferred judgment occurred after July 1, 2013, and you’ve successfully completed your probation, you don’t need to do anything. The record will automatically be sealed from public view. For older deferred judgments, you’ll need to petition the court for expungement.
Expunging Dismissals and Acquittals
Since January 1, 2016, the Iowa courts will expunge cases that resulted in either a dismissal or a not-guilty verdict. The new law applies to all crimes except for simple misdemeanor traffic charges, even if they occurred before January 1, 2016. This means that you can file a petition to have your record expunged even if the case was heard before the new law came into effect. To qualify, you must have paid all court fees and fines ordered by the court as part of your original case. You’ll also need to wait a minimum of 180 days from the acquittal or dismissal before filing a petition for expungement.
Filing for Expungement
Whatever type of record you want expunged, the first step is to draft a legal pleading known as a petition. There’s no specific form of this petition in Iowa, but you can use a template instead of starting from scratch. The University of Iowa has produced some helpful tools which you can find on their website at legal.studentlife.uiowa.edu/resources. Include the case number, trial date and conviction so the court can identify your case, then simply request that your criminal record be expunged. Sign and date the petition and file it with the county courthouse. The judge will review the petition and either grant the expungement without a hearing or ask that you appear in court. If you meet the criteria and the district attorney's office doesn't object, the court will usually enter the order expunging the record.
Effect of Expungement
Once the court expunges your record, members of the public will no longer be able to see it, and the record won’t show up on regular background checks such as those carried out by employers and landlords. The expunged record doesn’t disappear completely, however – it gets placed on a private list. Law enforcement, court staff, the department of corrections and the county attorney’s office can see this list, and the expunged conviction can impact your sentence if you’re convicted of a new crime.