Erasing Criminal Records

Cleaning Up a Criminal Record

Basic information about erasing a criminal conviction from your record.

When records of an arrest or conviction are sealed or expunged (a notation is made in the file that the records are off limits to all except law enforcement personnel), defendants can, for some purposes, treat the arrests or convictions as though they had never happened. For example, assume that a defendant’s conviction for misdemeanor possession of an illegal drug is expunged. On applications for school, a job or a professional license, the defendant may be able to answer that the defendant has no arrests or convictions (assuming no others exist). However, the rules about who is eligible for expungement, and the effect of expungement, vary from state to state, and people interested in expungement should seek the advice of an experienced attorney or the staff of a community-based rehabilitation project that includes expungement as part of its everyday services. These general guidelines apply to many expungement programs: