The Expungement Center is dedicated to helping Americans everywhere understand their rights about their public records. We publish helpful information about record sealing and record expungement for states where it is available.

An expungement law provides a strategic way to removing a misdemeanor or felony that has a guilty charge or a court dismissal from your record. Depending on which U.S. state you reside in, expungement directives change.

Simply put, a record removed does not exist. It is important to know that each state manages and controls a separate registry for child abuse and sexual offenses. Depending on your state, there are many sites and links that can assist through this process. By law, you have the right to have a file destroyed. In most cases an arrest, detainment or trial, can easily be expunged, otherwise.

A sealed record is not removed but only accessible by certain government entities. Many employers have stringent hiring policies in place which usually require a background check. Criminal public records that are sealed cannot be accessed by a simple background or credit check. This is extremely important for those applying to prestigious colleges or those needing a loan to buy a home. There are extreme circumstances and court proceedings that need to take place to open a sealed record. Court ordered files of this type, does give one the ability to answer “no” to the question, “Do you have a felony record?” However if the employment in question, is a criminal justice opportunity, the file is allowed to be opened.

Expunged records are unable to view because laws state the file never existed. The file is removed and impossible for anyone to access, and that includes, with a court order. This is a more effective way of handling a felony charge. The files are wiped off of the court’s dockets. Your slate is flawless and clean.

Removing the file completely, is generally more appealing than having the file sealed. No matter what is revealed from a background check, the destroyed file will not surface. Depending on the state you live in, there may not be a choice. Some U.S. states have laws that limit the choice to a sealed file. Some good news is, there are some U.S. states that automatically remove a felony after the age of 18, if there are no other incidences.

There is not a Federal expungement law in the United States. A convicted felon has to ask for a sanctioned pardon. If a pardon is given, the results are the same, the file is destroyed.

Here are some general guidelines to achieve removal of a criminal record:

  • Completing a probationary period with no other arrests or convictions
  • All proceedings have been satisfied, none are pending
  • The sentence is completely fulfilled
  • The arrest and/or conviction is not a charge that the particular state warrants as seriou
  • There are no other incidents pertaining to the charge in question
  • Completing a waiting probation for the incident

The benefits are endless:

  • Removal of a guilty plea or a “no contest”
  • Not guilty plea is entered
  • Honor and truth in a “no” answer for employment
  • The Department of Justice is notified
  • Removal of shame from your life
  • Improve your credit
  • Better choices in housing and better chance with a loan ap
  • Restore scholarships, federal aps for grants and loans after drug conviction

The process is not difficult to complete. Filing the paperwork is a very simple process. Simply reading your rights and following the guidelines should suffice. If you follow the instructions (per your state), the process is worry free. Most of your questions are accessible online or at your county courthouse. There is no reason you can’t find everything you need.

The main elements explaining why the process was created:

Since many people have struggled to become acclimated back in a normal life of employment, education etc., it was badly needed. Please be advised, there are only 29 states in this country that will allow answering “no” on a job application, once you have filed.

The importance of rehabilitation once went unnoticed in many instances. If a person successfully finished rehab, this helps to assures an individual can continue a life as normal as possible.

There are questions, if an individual is worthy of having a record removed. For many people, the answer is yes. The determining factors are decided by each state. However as a general rule of thumb, traffic citations, drug arrests, any misdemeanor and many others, are eligible under each state’s laws.

To have a court case sealed or terminated takes time and does require you to follow certain guidelines as stated earlier. Although you need to follow the procedure exactly as your state has mandated the steps, you do not need an attorney. You can be assured the the clerks in your courts and legal aid, can answer any questions you have. Also, there is unlimited information online that gives current, reliable procedures that you can follow.

In most states, you will have to petition the court to remove an arrest record. For example, the Oklahoma expungement law, states that petitioning their District court begins the process. The necessary paperwork can be obtained through legal aid. For this state the expungement law is separated by titles and sections of Oklahoma’s mandates. Title 22, section 18 states: allows the entire conviction to be resolved. Title 22, section 991(c) allows a deferred sentence, to have the plea removed, which ultimately shows a dismissed case.

Nothing should stop you from making a change
Mistakes are made by everyone, there should be a 2nd chance for anyone that asks to start over. It is difficult when you are embarrassed and ashamed of your past. A felony can literally ruin your entire life. These are situations that cause many people to give up on their future, for not care anymore. No one should ever feel that their life is not worth changing. There is hope for everyone.