Expungement Is Not Always an Option

It is important to remember that expungement of an arrest and/or a criminal conviction is not an option in all states and counties (sometimes called "jurisdictions"). Depending on the jurisdiction in which the arrest or conviction occurred:

  • Expungement may not be available at all.
  • Expungement may be an option for arrests, but not for convictions.
  • Expungement may be an option only for certain criminal convictions.
  • Expungement may be an option only for arrests and/or convictions that occurred while the offender was a juvenile.
  • Expungement may be available only after a person is acquitted (cleared) of an offense (i.e., charges are dismissed).
  • Expungement may be possible only when a criminal conviction is reversed (i.e., after a successful appeal of the conviction).

Of those states that offer some form of expungement of criminal records, each also has its own set of criteria setting forth when expungement is available and who is eligible to initiate the process. So, for example, some states may require the prosecutor's office to sign off on any expungement request or that offenders wait a certain period of time pass before applying for expungement. There may even be further requirements to remove any arrest or criminal records from other state agencies in addition to those records held by the court. Any one of these requirements can delay or obstruct the expungement process.

Examples From Specific Jurisdictions

Arizona is one state that does not allow expungement of a criminal record. However, if you live long enough, you may be in luck as records of crimes in Arizona stay on an offender's record until they reach the age of 99.

New York also does not allow expungement of criminal convictions. However, it does allow expungement of arrest records if the matter was ultimately resolved in favor of the person who was arrested through either:

  • A dismissal of charges;
  • An acquittal at trial; or
  • A successful appeal that overturns a conviction.

In California, offenders can petition the court for a dismissal. If granted, the court can withdraw a guilty plea or a guilty verdict at trial, enter a not guilty plea in the record, and then set aside and dismiss the conviction. The end result is that an offender's records will show a dismissal rather than a conviction. However, this does not apply to some convictions and is at the complete discretion of the court.

Florida offers two separate processes to expunge and to seal criminal records.

Talk to an Attorney to Find Out if Expungement Is an Option in Your Case

As you can see, whether you're able to expunge or seal your criminal records can depend on laws and procedures of the state where you were arrested or convicted. However, expungement is a powerful tool that can benefit your life in several areas so it's worth investigating its availability as well as your eligibility. Contact a local criminal defense attorney to discuss your case and find out if your conviction is eligible for expungement.

Next Steps

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