Your criminal history is a public record that can be readily accessed, unless you take action to expunge it. An expungement of your criminal history will result in either an erasure or destruction of the records, or an order sealing the records from public view. State laws vary regarding expungement, and some do not offer this relief. The paperwork you will need to expunge your criminal history will depend on the expungement laws in your state.
The starting point for gathering the paperwork needed for your expungement request should be obtaining a copy of your criminal history record. This can usually be done through your state’s Department of Justice. Some states, such as Montana, allow you to access this information online. You will accomplish two things by doing this. First, you will know precisely what criminal history information is available to you. Second, you will have the information you need to include in your expungement request
If your state does not make criminal history records available through your state’s Department of Justice, you can obtain the records from the court where you were convicted. All court records are public records (except juvenile criminal cases) and you can obtain a copy of your case records by going to the clerk’s office and requesting them. In some counties, you may be able to access the court’s electronic records online and obtain essential case information, such as from the Los Angeles County Superior Court.
Any paperwork you have showing compliance with your sentence will be pertinent to your expungement request. For example, if you served time in jail or prison, the sheriff or department of corrections will have a record regarding completion of your sentence, as well as of your behavior during custody. To the degree you served your time without incident or were released early for good behavior, it will help support your expungement request. You can contact the facility where you served time for information on how to obtain copies of your records.
Each state that allows expungement of a criminal record will also have its own procedures which, in some instances, include a pre-printed court form. For example, if you want to expunge your juvenile conviction in Utah, the court provides a specific form that must be used and filed with the court to have a judge rule on your request. In Georgia, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation has a special form for use in requesting expungement of an arrest record. The form is filled out by both you and the law enforcement agency that arrested you, then sent to the prosecutor's office for the decision on the expungement request.
The final document you will need is the document you are trying to obtain, an order expunging your criminal record. Although the court can take action to destroy its records of your case, other records related to your case, such as law enforcement arrest records, will have to be destroyed by another agency. Some state expungement laws may require the court to transmit a copy of the expungement order to any law enforcement agency involved in your criminal case, but not all do and you may be required to deliver a copy of the order to the agency to effectuate the expungement. Practices will also vary as to whether the law enforcement agency will turn over its file to you for destruction or handle the destruction of records itself.