How do I Expunge Arrest Records?

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  • Written By: N. Madison
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 11 August 2019
  • Copyright Protected:
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The process you'll have to follow to have arrest records expunged may depend on the jurisdiction in which you have an arrest record. In most places, however, you’ll have to complete an application or file a petition for expungement. You may also have to pay a fee and provide some sort of evidence that you have lived lawfully since your arrest. It is important to note, however, that expungement is not a right. Instead, it is a privilege that can be denied.

The first thing you may do when you’re hoping to have an arrest record expunged is research the laws in your jurisdiction. In some places, the potential for expungement is limited to certain types of crimes. Often, for example, arrest records for more serious crimes, such as murder, are less likely to be expunged. Some jurisdiction have laws that allow for juvenile records to be expunged automatically once the individual becomes an adult. Adults, however, are usually not eligible for any type of automatic expungement.

You may also do well to check whether or not you can really expunge arrest records in your jurisdiction. In some jurisdictions, records are sealed instead of expunged. In such a case, records are unreachable by the general public. When arrest records are expunged, on the other hand, they are usually destroyed. It’s important to learn how the terms "expunge" and "seal" are used in your jurisdiction because some court systems use them interchangeably.


Once you've learned the laws in your particular area, you may be ready to move forward with your request to expunge arrest records. Your first step will usually be obtaining an application to expunge arrest records. You may find this document where your jurisdiction’s arrest records are held. In some places, you may need to file a petition rather than completing an application. You may find blank petitions through the same department that holds your arrest records or obtain sample petitions online.

Depending on the jurisdiction in which you want to expunge arrest records, you may need to include supporting documents with your request. For example, you may need to provide documentation of your employment history as well as any volunteer work you have completed. You may also have to provide letters of reference from individuals who can truthfully describe your character. In some cases, you may even have to submit records of arrest or conviction. Some situations may require the documentation to be taken to an expungement hearing.

As part of the arrest expungement process, you may be required to appear at a hearing in which you will try to demonstrate that your records should be expunged. You may have to present evidence and testify on your own behalf. You may be allowed to have witnesses testify on your behalf as well. Following the hearing, you may have to wait to learn whether your request will be granted. In some places, it is normal to wait several weeks or more for a decision.



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