What is the Expungement Process?

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  • Written By: G. Wiesen
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 09 January 2020
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The expungement process is, in general, the process by which a person can attempt to have part or all of a criminal record expunged. Once expunged, this record will not be viewable by most people and will effectively be sealed or removed from the person when someone performs a background check on him or her. In many areas there are specific laws that dictate what crimes can be expunged, as well as how the process is done. The expungement process in the US, for example, typically varies by state and certain crimes can be expunged in some states but not in others.

In the US, the expungement process typically consists of an application to have a criminal offense expunged from a person’s record. This application will usually need to be filled out by the applicant, though an attorney may be consulted for assistance, and will include information such as name, Social Security number, and details about the offense he or she wishes to expunge. Once complete, the application will then be filed with a county clerk or court clerk, depending on the specific process in the state, and a court date or review hearing will be set. This hearing will usually be part of the expungement process, though the person seeking the expungement may not need to attend it.


A fee will usually need to be paid when the paperwork for the expungement process is filed, and this can vary widely from state to state. In Maryland, for example, as of 2010 the fee was $30 US Dollars (USD) per application, while in Ohio the fee can be as high as $100 USD per application, though it may be less for expunging an arrest that did not result in conviction. A judge will then decide during the hearing or review on whether to accept or deny the expungement. The types of crimes that can be expunged through the expungement process are usually dictated by the state; however there are fairly common guidelines for many states.

Most states, for example, will not allow a violent crime, especially a felony, to be expunged. While the expungement process can be used to expunge some vehicular crimes in some states, this will typically not include incidents of vehicular assault or manslaughter, or driving under the influence or while intoxicated. Many states will also not allow a crime against someone under the age of 18 to be expunged, though this may depend on the nature of the crime. A conviction removed through the expungement process will not appear on a person’s record and cannot be seen by potential employers, though law enforcement agencies and courts will be able to see expunged crimes, and they can be used against someone in future criminal cases.


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