Obtaining an expungement for an arrest or conviction involves checking your criminal record. You must also research the offenses and circumstances that qualify for expunction in the jurisdiction where your case was managed. You can then identify any offenses on your record that qualify for expungement and that need to be wiped off of your record.
The Need for a Criminal Record
You may not qualify for an expungement for several years after an arrest or conviction, which can make it difficult to remember the details of your case. You will need your criminal report to identify offenses that need to be expunged, then fill out the petition or motion for expungement. You may also need to attach a copy of your criminal record when filing your petition with the clerk of court.
Ordering Your Criminal Record
Order your criminal record from one of several entities, including local, state and federal law enforcement agencies and courts. There is no universal, national criminal record database that you can access from a single source. Your record may be in one of many places, depending on the severity of the crime, the court and the agency that handled it.
Crimes that involved fingerprinting are sent to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Start your criminal report search with the FBI by submitting an application form on the bureau's official website. You must include an official copy of your fingerprints, known as a fingerprint card, and $18 to the FBI's address located at the bottom of the application.
Misdemeanors that are not sent to the FBI and criminal infractions are on record with the state or local authorities in the jurisdiction where the arrest and charge took place. Generally, the police or department of justice can direct you to the agency or court that can provide your record. For example, the Massachusetts Court provides criminal record reports for $25 via mail or online.
Figuring Out What Needs to Be Expunged
To get your criminal record as clean as possible, expunge all offenses that qualify to be wiped off. In general, you can expunge all misdemeanors and even some serious felonies. Check the statutes in your jurisdiction for expungement via the court website where you seek expungement. Many of these government websites also include do-it-yourself resources, such as instructional handbooks and forms for filing for expungement.
The handbook and the application, usually called a petition or motion, provide the basic requirements you must meet to qualify.
Specific requirements for expungement vary, such as the minimum waiting period after you served your sentence, completed a drug abuse or mental health program, or finished probation. Other common eligibility requirements include having no convictions or arrests since the offense and having paid off all restitution owed to victims. Check your criminal record with your local statutes to see which offenses qualify for expungement.
- The Law Dictionary: How Do I Get a Copy of My Criminal Record? Law Dictionary: How Do I Get a Copy of My Criminal Record?
- FBI.gov: Identity History Summary Checks
- Mass.gov: How to Get a Copy of Your Own Criminal Record
- Hg.org: Expungement
- NJ.gov: How to Expunge Your Criminal and/or Juvenile Record
- Mdcourts.gov: Information About Removing Criminal Records from Public Access in Maryland
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