Steps to Expunge a Felony Conviction

Expunging a criminal record is often a simple process. Having your conviction expunged will show that you were rehabilitated, and in some circumstances may prevent the conviction from being available to employers. Expungement of a felony record requires that a petition be filed with the court after determining whether the felony qualifies. 

How to Expunge a Felony: Qualifying

If your prior felony conviction was for a lower level offense like theft or possession of controlled substance, you have a better chance of expunging your records. If it was for a higher level type of offense, like aggravated assault or sexual assault, expunction may not be available for your felony conviction. The type of sentence that you received will also influence your qualification for expunction. If you were sentenced to prison, many states will never allow you to successfully expunge your felony. If you received a probated or deferred sentence, you will have a better chance at expunging your criminal conviction. The reason this makes a difference is partially because in order to have your felony expunged, many states require that you successfully completed probation and paid all fines and retribution before you qualify for expungement. If you were sent to prison, this may automatically disqualify you.

In some states, though, you may still be able to expunge a felony where you served prison time if you can show that a lengthy amount of time has passed without new criminal charges and that you are a contributing, law abiding member of society. If you served time in prison, you should contact a criminal lawyer who handles expungements to find out if your state allows expungement under these circumstances.

Timing of Your Felony Expungment Petition

Your next step is to decide when you can file. Filing a petition for expunction before you qualify will only result in money wasted on a filing fee. Before you can expunge a criminal conviction, many states require that you wait until the statute of limitations has run on your sentence or a certain number of years have passed after your discharge from probation.

Petitioning to Expunge a Felony

After you have met the timing requirement, you should then file a petition for expunction. Most states will require you to send notice of your request to the original law enforcement agency, the district attorney’s office that handled your case, and the state agency that manages criminal histories for your state (like the Department of Public Safety). You should attach any required documents to your petition. After all the relevant parties have received your request to expunge your felony conviction, you should request a hearing with the court. If you don't, your case likely won’t be heard. You have the burden at the hearing of proving that you qualify to have your felony conviction expunged. The procedure to expunge a felony can take between three months to almost a year depending on the court and the severity of your case.

Expungement Costs

A criminal attorney in your area can help you walk through the requirements specific to your state and jurisdiction. Attorney's fees to expunge a felony are usually between $1,000 and $2,500, and is inclusive of all costs associated with your expunction including court appearances. They can also advise you as to alternatives to expunction. For example, if your felony conviction does not qualify to be expunged, you may still be able to obtain some relief by requesting a petition for non-disclosure. This type of petition may also help prevent employers from having access to your felony conviction. The procedures are generally the same as those for expungement.