What is a Motion to Expunge?

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  • Written By: Felicia Dye
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 14 February 2020
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Expungement refers to a legal process to seal a criminal record. In law, a motion usually refers to a legal request for action. Therefore, a motion to expunge is a request for a court to seal a person’s criminal record.

The motion to expunge is an important document in the expungement process. It is usually submitted in addition to an application packet, which has documents that serve other purposes. However, it is the motion to expunge that formally requests a court to free a person of the burden of having a conviction on his record. Such a request may be made for felonies or misdemeanors in some jurisdictions.

The rules regarding expungement vary from state to state. Therefore, the structure of the motion can also vary. In most jurisdictions, a person is not required to have an attorney to get his record expunged. However, people are generally advised to utilize the services of a lawyer or legal service.

If a person chooses to complete the process without the assistance of a legal professional, he may want to consider using a motion to expunge form. In addition to the personal details a person must provide, there is a substantial amount of legal jargon included in such a document. However, using a form can eliminate the need to write or to have the motion written. Instead, a person only needs to fill in the blanks.


The motion to expunge generally includes demographic information about the petitioner, or person who is requesting expungement. It also includes information about the crime that he wants to have removed. This information can include the date of arrest, the charge, and the court’s docket number. Also, it may be necessary to include information about the sentencing, including the date of conviction, place of conviction, and whether time was served in a correctional facility.

It is common for one or two sets of fingerprints to be required with the motion to expunge. When a person is ready file the document, he will generally need to do so with the court that convicted him of the crime. There may be a fee requested. A copy of the motion is then usually presented to the prosecutor and perhaps also to the probation department.

When the request is successful, the court will generate a document known as an order to expunge. This will seal the criminal record as if it never existed. The petitioner will be able to legally claim that he has never been arrested or convicted of any of the crimes that were expunged.


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Post 1

Good call -- it is a very good idea to hire an attorney for this process. A lawyer who deals with a lot of criminal cases will probably know the most efficient, effective way to get one of these approved. A motion to expunge isn't hard to get approved if a person has a limited criminal past and has proven himself or herself to be a solid citizen, but getting that motion before the right people and with the correct supporting documents is almost impossible without a good attorney.

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