Where it may be available to persons who have been arrested or convicted, expungement does not happen automatically, and is never guaranteed. A person seeking to have an arrest or criminal conviction expunged from their record must usually fill out an application or petition, and submit the paperwork to the proper criminal court for a judge's review and decision. In most jurisdictions, a fee must be paid in conjunction with the filing of the application.
The expungement process can be complicated. For example, some jurisdictions require an applicant to deliver (or "serve") papers on district attorneys, while others require the applicant to prepare the legal document (or "Order of Expungement") which will be signed by the judge. In some cases, a court hearing is required, after which a judge will decide whether to grant the expungement. Also, once you obtain an expungement order, you may need to serve it on different agencies who may also have records related to your arrest or conviction, such as your state's department of corrections.
Perhaps the hardest part of the process, though, will be obtaining all of the required documents to file with your application. Many of these documents can be obtained from the prosecutor's office or from court records, so that's a good place to start. Also, there are some jurisdictions that require a formal approval of expungement from the prosecutor's office before it can be considered by the court, which may take some time and effort to obtain.
As noted, the expungement process can differ by state and even by county, so there may be specific application forms and requirements for your court. You can normally find these forms at your local courthouse or on your court's website. Below are a few examples of what these applications or petitions look like in the various states.
Expungement can go by different descriptions and can have different eligibility requirements depending on where your case was prosecuted. Some states require the passage of a certain amount of time, for example, before someone becomes eligible for expungement. The effects of an expungement can also be different depending on where you live. For example, some courts will just seal your records while others provide a process that will result in the dismissal of your conviction.
A criminal case expungement is a great way to open doors of opportunity. Whether you are looking to advance in your career, enroll in school, or even just clear your criminal history, expungement is the answer. To learn more about the expungement process in your state, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney.