Expungement of Felony Conviction

Under what circumstances can a felony be expunged? Who makes this decision? What is the typical waiting period? Are there certain felonies that can't be expunged?

"Expungement" is the legal process by which a court removes or erases all records of a criminal conviction, even if it is a felony conviction. Your conviction will not simply disappear on its own even if you wait 10 or 20 years - you have to take action (see how long does a felony stay on your record). As a result, if you wish to remove a felony from your record and you are eligible to do so under the laws of the state in which you were convicted, you will have to obtain a court order.

You must convince the judge
Ultimately, it is up to the judge of the court in which you were convicted to decide whether to grant you an expungement. You must follow the law of the state in which you were convicted in order to try and get your felony conviction expunged. Depending on the state, this legal process can take anywhere from three months to a year or more.

If you are successful in having your conviction expunged, your records related to this conviction will be erased and sealed from public view. Thus, if a prospective employer performs a criminal background check on you, your criminal conviction will not show up in those records. It may take additional time after you receive a court order expunging the offense before it is completely removed from all local, state, and federal criminal history databases.

Follow your state's procedures
All states have different procedures for expunging felony convictions. Generally, you must file a motion or petition for expungement with the court that convicted you of the felony. In your petition, you must request that your felony conviction be removed, explain why you wish to have this done (for school, employment, etc.), and prove how your situation meets the requirements of your state's laws. You may also have to give details about whether you successfully completed the terms and conditions of the sentence that you received for your felony conviction, whether you have been charged with and/or convicted of any new crimes, and whether you are currently on probation or parole for another offense.

Furthermore, all states have different eligibility requirements for the expungement of felony convictions. In almost all states, there are certain types or classes of felony convictions that cannot be expunged, and in a fair amount of states, felony convictions cannot be expunged at all. For instance, many state laws do not permit specified sexual offenses or violent crimes to be expunged under any circumstances. It is also common for some state laws to prohibit the expungement of the most serious felony convictions, such as those resulting in death or bodily injury.

Can be a waiting game
Additionally, you usually cannot have your felony conviction expunged until a certain period of time has passed since the date that you completed your sentence or period of probation related to the conviction. This timeframe can range from one year up to five years or more following the date you completed your sentence or probation. Therefore, it may be several years following your conviction before you are eligible to try and have it expunged.

How to expunge a felony — get help!
Going through the process of removing a felony is difficult - you should seek the counsel of a local attorney who knows local laws and can help you through this process. Find a local attorney today (no obligation required).

Also see: Expungement lawyer