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The Expungement Process

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The Expungement Process
By FindLaw Staff | Reviewed by Jeffrey Waggoner, Esq. | Last updated February 12, 2021

Even when it is an option for people who have been arrested or convicted, expungement does not happen automatically, and it is never guaranteed. A person seeking to have an arrest or criminal conviction expunged from their record usually has to fill out a petition or application, and then submit all required paperwork to the criminal court. Once they have done that, a judge will review the application and make a decision. In most cases, filing an expungement application also requires paying a fee.

Expungement Process Basics
The expungement process can be complicated. For example, some jurisdictions require an applicant to deliver (or “serve”) papers to 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. Once you obtain an expungement order, you may also need to serve it on different agencies that 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, some jurisdictions require formal approval of expungement from the prosecutor’s office before the expungement can be considered by the court, which may take some time and effort to acquire.

Examples of State Expungement Applications
As noted, the expungement process can differ by state and even by county, so there may be specific application forms and requirements for your local court system. You can normally find these forms at your local courthouse or their website. Below are a few examples of what these applications or petitions look like in the various states.

Colorado: Sealing of Arrest and Criminal Records (Colorado Judicial Branch)
Florida: Seal and Expunge Process (Florida Department of Law Enforcement)
Georgia: Request to Restrict (Expunge) Arrest Record (Georgia Bureau of Investigation)
Minnesota: Expungement of a Criminal Record (Minnesota Judicial Branch)
Missouri: Petition for Expungement of Arrest Records (Missouri Courts)
Nevada: Petition to Seal Records Instructions (Clark County)
Texas: Items Needed for Filing Expunctions [PDF file] (Dallas County)
Additional Expungement Considerations
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. Some courts will just seal your records while others provide a process that will result in the dismissal of your conviction.