You may know someone who committed a youthful mistake resulting in a criminal record. That someone may even be you. Even if you’ve had a clean record since, this history can interfere with getting a job, renting an apartment, obtaining a professional license, or establishing favorable child custody rights. Wouldn’t it be great to make this record go away? For many charges and/or convictions of juveniles or young adults under 21, it is possible to make them go away by a process called “expungement” or “expunction.”
- Delinquent or Undisciplined Juveniles (e.g., “found guilty” of skipping school, being where minors are not allowed, driving a car without a license, running away, etc.): You can have these records expunged by applying after you are 18, provided you were not found guilty of any later crimes as a juvenile or as an adult. It is not available to serious crimes (Class A through E felonies).
- Juvenile Whose Case was Ultimately Dismissed: If you were charged with a crime or alleged to be delinquent or undisciplined but the case was dismissed (including where you completed a deferred prosecution program), you can apply to expunge the charges any time after you are 16.
- Conviction of Misdemeanor Under 18: If you were convicted of a misdemeanor like simple assault or shoplifting when under 18, you can expunge the record if you wait two years to apply, and if you don’t have any felony or misdemeanor convictions within that time (except minor traffic offenses). You are not eligible if the offense involved impaired driving, however.
- Conviction of Non-Violent Felony Under 18: If you were convicted of a non-violent felony when under 18 (e.g., felony larceny, felony drug offenses), and if this is the only conviction on your record, you can have it expunged. To be eligible, you must also perform 100 hours of community service. Expungement is not available for offenses involving impaired driving. The waiting period to apply is four years after conviction (if no sentence was imposed) or four years after finishing probation or incarceration.
- Conviction of Misdemeanor Possession of Alcohol Under 21: This can be expunged by waiting two years from the conviction (or from completing probation) to apply, if you do not have any misdemeanor or felony convictions during that time (other than minor traffic offenses). Note that driving while impaired convictions are not eligible for expungement, regardless of age.
- First Offender Conviction of Certain Toxic Vapors/Drug Paraphernalia Charges Under 21: This conviction can be expunged if you completed a first offenders program for toxic vapors or drug paraphernalia. Alternatively, apply more than 12 months after conviction. You also must have a clean record of no misdemeanor or felony convictions since the original offense (except for minor traffic offenses).
- Certain Gang Offenses Under Age 17: Expungement is available if this is your only felony or misdemeanor (other than minor traffic offenses) during the minimum two years between your conviction (or completion of probation if you were placed on probation) and your application. You are also eligible for expungement if your charges were dismissed under a conditional discharge for first time offenders program.
- Dismissal or Not Guilty Due to Identity Theft: At any age, if misdemeanor or felony charges were dismissed or you were found not guilty as a result of someone fraudulently giving your name to police, you can have the charge expunged.
If you have a charge or conviction expunged, you can and should respond to questions about your criminal background as if this event never happened. That’s the purpose of expungement.
Some expungements are simple, with forms available from the Clerk. In other circumstances, expungement is more complicated, and you will likely want an attorney to help you. Some expungements require a Clerk’s fee, and some do not. More information is available from the Clerk of Court or from an attorney. Steffan & Associates, PC can assist you in successfully navigating an expungement.