How to Purge a Criminal Record

Having your record purged gives you a second chance.
••• courthouse image by pearlguy from

Getting your criminal record purged, or, as it is more commonly called, expunged, means that your record is legally emptied of its history. No person or entity, other than a criminal investigator can have access to the crimes you committed or the sentence you served. For example, if a potential employer checks your record before hiring you, he won't find anything. However, if a criminal investigation led by the police requires the opening of your record, its contents will be available.

Check your state's regulations on criminal record expungement. Most states allow expungement after a certain amount of time has passed, usually five years, and are more lenient toward juvenile offenses. A few states, including Alabama, do not allow record cleansing unless you were found to be innocent of the charges, they were dropped or your record contains a mistake.

Go to the court in which you were charged and tried and request a record expungement. You will need to fill out a petition and submit it to the clerk of the court, along with a fee. The fee varies by state but as of May 2010 was about $150 on average.

Read More: Difference Between a Police Record & a Criminal Record

Make several copies of your petition and serve them to anyone legally connected to your conviction, including your arresting officer, police station at which you were held and the records department in the municipality in which you were convicted. File a copy of the petition with the state attorney general.

Provide documentation that you not only qualify for an expungment, but that you have lived an exemplary life since your record was created. Some states require affidavits from police officers and those who know you well to prove that you have lived crime-free for at least two years.


  • Consider getting a lawyer if your case is complicated.
  • The court will mail its decision to you. If successful, you may be required to serve each legal entity involved in your case with the order for record expungement.

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