How Can a Felony be Expunged?

Our website is supported by our users. We sometimes earn affiliate links when you click through the affiliate links on our website.

As felons know, a federal conviction can follow them for the rest of their life as long as it remains on their record.

The previous blog post covered how to apply for clemency as a means of eliminating the consequences of having a felony even though the conviction remains on their record.

Another way to deal with a felony record is to seek to have a felony expunged.  Under this, a felony can be dismissed from their record along with the consequences that go along with it.

A felony expungement will show that they were rehabilitated and keep potential employers from viewing the felony on their record.

This blog post will cover the steps in the felony expungement process.

  • Who is Eligible to Have a Felony Expunged?
  • Steps to Take
  • Effects of Having a Felony Expunged
  • Supporting the Felon after the Expungement Process

Who is Eligible to Have a Felony Expunged?

Not everyone is eligible to have a felony expunged from their record.  Most first time felons can have a felony expunged.

Unlike clemency which can be granted by the President of the United States, in the case of a Federal felony, or the governor or Pardon Board official in the case of a state felony, expungement is granted by the governor of the state where the conviction occurred.

Each state has its own laws regarding felony expungement.  It will be essential to review this process for a particular state before proceeding.  Having legal counsel will be important in this process.

Those felons who have the best chances for expungement are those who have only a single felony on their record.  If they have a lengthy legal history of misdemeanor convictions, their chances to have their record expunged will be diminished.

The nature of the original felony also makes a difference.  Felonies that are usually not eligible for expungement include sexual crimes, child pornography, crimes in which the victim is younger than 18, and many violent crimes.

Felons must have completed all aspects of their sentence.  They must have been out of prison anywhere from five to ten years, depending on the state before being eligible to apply.

They must also have finished probation and not owe any fines or restitution resulting from their felony.

Felons must have maintained a clean record since being released from prison.

They must have remained free from drug or alcohol dependency for at least one year and been rehabilitated according to the court, if that was a part of the original sentence.

Felons must have obtained a high school diploma or GED.  They must also have completed at least one year of community service, according to the court.

It is also easier to obtain expungement if felons can document how they have improved themselves since their release through education, training, and work experience.

Steps to Take

The first step in the expungement process is to file a petition with the court in the jurisdiction where the felony was committed.  A copy must be sent to the District Attorney in that jurisdiction.  Or, you could simply click here and take the eligibility to test to see if our partner can help you.

The District Attorney must respond to the petition with a recommendation to the court within sixty days.  The court considers information from the applicant and from the D.A.

The court will consider whether the eligibility criteria have been met and if granting the expungement will have a negative effect on public safety.  Felons are then notified of the outcome.

If expungement is granted, all records pertaining to the crime would be sealed with the exception of publicly available court opinions and documents related to appeal.

Felons would no longer be required to reveal information related to the felony.  Their new status would not disqualify them from any profession.

A nonpublic record of the conviction would still be maintained by the Department of Justice for any later legal action.  When applying for a job, felons can honestly answer no when asked if they have ever been convicted of a criminal offense.

Effects of Having a Felony Expunged

Felons with an expunged record must still make their records available under particular circumstances.

They must be made available to a licensing office when attempting to obtain a license to carry a firearm and to law enforcement when felons are involved in a criminal investigation.

They are allowed to be viewed by federal, state, or city employers when applying for a job related to investigation or prosecution of people under civil or criminal statutes.

Many states allow consideration of expunged records for jobs in courts or within the juvenile legal system.

In some states felons who want to apply for jobs such as public school teachers, corrections officers, or police officers may have their expunged records accessed.

When applying for professional licenses, such as law or medicine, agencies are allowed access to those records.

In many states, felons can receive an expungement only once.   After that such records cannot be sealed again.

If felons are arrested for later crimes, the seriousness of the new crime may become higher if there is a prior conviction.  This includes crimes that have been expunged.

Just as an expunged record is considered in determining the seriousness of a crime, it will also be evaluated when determining the sentence when felons are convicted of a new crime.

They will be considered a repeat offender.  Prior offenses, even though expunged in states that have a third strike rule for more extreme sentencing, such as California, will always remain considered.

If an expungement is not granted, felons will be informed of the reason for denial, the steps they can take to reapply, and how long they have to wait to reapply.

Supporting the Felon after the Expungement Decision

Remember to prepare for a good or bad outcome.

For families of felons who have had their record expunged, reinforce their efforts and the challenges they faced in going through the expungement process.

If they can work hard enough to accomplish that, they can achieve so much more.

Felons shouldn’t lose hope if their felony is not expunged.

For families of felons who have been turned down for expungement, continue to be there and be supportive.  Do not allow your loved one to give up.  Help them live the right way.

So what do you think about this blog post about how to apply for expungement?  Have you or someone you know been through this process?  What was that like and were they successful?   Please tell us in the comments below.

About the author

After earning his MBA from Benedictine University, Ron was looking for a new challenge and stumbled on the idea of helping the formerly incarcerated.

Using what he learned, Ron developed this website as a free resource and has worked with his team​ to continue answering questions for those in need.

2 thoughts on “How Can a Felony be Expunged?”

  1. The state of New Mexico does NOT allow Felons of any crime be expunged. NO pardon either. It depends on the state. Check with your state and obtain advise from a good Criminal Law Attorney.

  2. Omg did I say I liked New Mexico just the other day? That’s infuriating they are so hard on former felons. All these demands are made on these former felons but what about society taking ownership of the lack of care given to marginalized peoples. which leads to crime. Criminality is born of poverty in one way or another.


Leave a Comment