Washington DC Criminal Expungement Lawyer

Criminal arrest and conviction does not have to be a permanent record forever attached to your name and accessible for viewing to employers and others.

A detailed analysis of the DC Expungement Statute reveals many avenues whereby arrest as well as certain conviction maybe expunged from the criminal record.

Although the structural features of expungement laws in the District of Columbia has evolved over time, the core concept of the record sealing or the expungement process has remained unaltered, that is the complete or partial eradication of the criminal history from a person’s records.

The very nature of the criminal past remains highly stigmatizing which can lead to a long-lasting ramifications on all aspects of life, including prospective employment and/or reputation.

In some instances an arrest and criminal prosecution do not necessarily result in a person’s conviction, nevertheless, opening an undesirable indefinitely accessible by public “criminal record chapter”.

Although the governing principles of both record sealing and expungement process, which is to alleviate the person’s susceptibility for social rehabilitation are uniform, the fundamental difference between the two is the extent to which the records are eliminated.

Typically, record sealing results in the criminal records being inaccessible to general public, including credit bureaus and employers.

Expungement on the other hand effectively removes all records of criminal conviction or arrest entirely. Noticeably, the complete expungement of a record is impossible as it is still obtainable by the court system and government agencies.

In the District of Columbia there are two main statutorily provisions to proceed:

1) Sealing of criminal records on grounds of actual innocence:

Eligible to proceed under this section if the prosecution has been terminated without conviction and have the burden to prove:

(1) The offense for which the person was arrested or charged did not occur; or

(2) The movant did not commit the offense.

The burden of proof is on the movant to establish either of the above listed items by the preponderance of the evidence if motion filed within 4 years after the prosecution has been terminated, and by clear and convincing evidence if filed after four years.

The relief under this section is intended to restore the movant to the status he or she occupied before being arrested or charged. That is, it would not be a false statement or perjury to state one has never been arrested if petition for expungement has been granted under this section.

2) Sealing of public criminal records in other cases:

Under the interest of justice criteria and statute there are specifically designated waiting periods for charges that have not resulted in a conviction and fall under eligible misdemeanor/felony without a conviction, for example, at minimum there has to be:

  • A waiting period of at least 2 years has elapsed since the termination of the case; and
  • The movant does not have a disqualifying arrest or conviction.

If there is conviction on the hand for an eligible misdemeanor or an eligible felony,  then:

  • A waiting period of at least 8 years has elapsed since the completion of the movant’s sentence; and
  •  The movant does not have a disqualifying arrest or conviction.

As indicated there is a wide range and each case has to be individually assessed to determine when is the first eligibility date.  Refer to the flow chart below for further clarification.

In making a decision to seal under this section, the court will balance the following factors:

  • The interests of the movant in sealing the publicly available records of his or her arrest, related court proceedings, or conviction;
  • The community’s interest in retaining access to those records, including the interest of current or prospective employers in making fully informed hiring or job assignment decisions and the interest in promoting public safety; and
  • The community’s interest in furthering the movant’s rehabilitation and enhancing the movant’s employability.

Contact our Washington DC Criminal Lawyer/DC Expungement Lawyer to schedule an initial consultation to determine if your arrest or conviction may be eligible to be sealed and expunged.

Our DC criminal defense lawyer has extensive experience in litigating successfully expungement petitions and restoring criminal records to prior to arrest and conviction.

Please see below the visual flow chart summarizing the expungement process:



Expungement Statute