Steps to Expunge a Felony Conviction

The steps to expunge a felony conviction first require determining whether the felony qualifies and then filing a petition with the court. If your prior felony conviction was for a lower-level offense like theft, you have a better chance of expunging your records. If your conviction was for a higher-level type of crime like aggravated assault or sexual assault, felony expungement might not be available. Enter your ZIP code below to receive more legal help for free.

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jul 15, 2021

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The least you should know…

  • Not all felony convictions qualify for expungement. It depends on the crime and the sentence
  • Qualifying felonies typically can be expunged by filing a petition
  • Before filing a petition to expunge a felony conviction, many states require that a certain number of years have passed after the conviction and/or discharge from probation.
  • The cost to get a felony expunged includes attorney’s fees and court costs.

Having a conviction expunged can open doors and give you more opportunities. You no longer have to list your prior crime on employment and other applications, but it’s not automatic. Even when you apply, you have to meet certain requirements.

Typically, expungement is only available after completing felony probation The steps to expunge a felony charge first require determining whether the felony qualifies and then the filing of a petition with the court. Sometimes the process for expunging criminal records can be simple, but many expungement cases require the help of a criminal lawyer.

To begin your search for a criminal law attorney, enter your ZIP code in our search tool

How Do You Qualify to Expunge Felony Arrest Records?

Can you expunge a felony conviction? The answer depends on another question: can all felonies be expunged? The answer is no, only qualifying felonies can be expunged.

If your prior felony conviction was for a lower-level offense like theft, you have a better chance than you would for felony sex offenses. Similarly, the courts are less likely to help you if you have an extensive criminal history.

Some expungements are more automated. For example, most juvenile offenses are expunged when the child reaches 18 or 21 depending on the state. Even with aggravated assault or sexual assault, a young adult can request expungement of their juvenile records.

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Can you expunge a felony drug conviction?

Again, that depends on the classification of the drug crime. A conviction for drug possession (possession of a controlled substance) may be easier to expunge than possession with the intent to distribute. A felony drug charge can be expunged, but whether a specific charge will qualify depends on the charge, punishment, and state where expungement is sought. If a dangerous weapon was found at the time of the arrest, it could complicate matters further.

The type of sentence that you received will also influence your qualification for expungement. If you were sentenced to prison, many states will never allow you to successfully expunge your felony. If you received a probation sentence, you will have a better chance.

The reason this makes a difference is partially that in order to have your felony expunged, many states require that you successfully complete probation and pay all fines and retribution before you qualify.

In some states, though, you may still be able to expunge a felony you served jail time for 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 what options your state provides. Even if you were convicted of violent offenses, a criminal defense attorney

Does Timing Matter for a Felony Expungement Petition?

If your charge qualifies for expungement, your next logical question is how do you get it done? The expungement process requires the filing of a petition.

But there is a timing requirement for filing a petition. So you need to decide when you can file. Filing a petition for expungement before you qualify will only result in money wasted on a filing fee.

So, when can a felon get his record expunged? 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. Your state offices may be able to help you, but many turn to an attorney to take care of the administrative details.

What Are The Next Steps to Get a Felony Removed from Your Record?

When the time is right, expungement laws require you file a petition for expunction. Most states will require you to send notice of your expungement request to the original law enforcement agencies, 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. Some states, like Illinois, use an expungement worksheet to help petitioners figure out if their criminal offenses qualify. The worksheet helps you maintain and list your entire criminal records in one place. It also ensures you provide information the state needs to make a decision.

After all the relevant parties have received your request, 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 for expungement. The courts will have certain information available, but your attorney is your best resource. 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. If it’s accepted, you could walk out with a clean slate.

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How much does it cost to get a felony expunged?

How much does it cost to expunge a felony? Attorney’s fees to expunge felony offenses are usually between $1,000 and $2,500 which is inclusive of all costs. This includes court appearances, but does not include court costs or filing fees.

Can you get my record expunged for free?

If you can prove your financial inability to pay the filing fees and court costs, there may be legal aid clinics in your area willing to help. Organizations have popped up around the country to help low income people to defend themselves in court, expunge old records, and otherwise get their lives back on track. Unfortunately, even a minor felony can have lifelong implications for people who may have been struggling prior to that. If they involve violent crimes, the mark can be even more destructive.

How much does it cost to expunge a felony in Texas?

Expunging a felony conviction in Texas can cost more than $3,000 in attorney fees and $600 or more in court costs. However, Texas allows multiple arrests and convictions to be reviewed at once. Expungement costs for misdemeanors are therefore the same, but they can be expunged at the same time as felonies.

How much does it cost to get your record expunged in Florida?

Expunging a felony conviction in Florida is much less expensive than the same process in Texas. The application fee is $75, and court costs generally don’t exceed $75. Attorney’s fees are going to be the most expensive part of the process, but you can likely find an experienced Florida expungement attorney to represent you for less than $1,000.

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How much does it cost to get your record expunged in Ohio?

In Ohio, the court costs are usually only $50 and an applicant can request expunging multiple convictions in the same motion. If you want to have your conviction sealed in Ohio, there are no court costs at all.

As in most other states, the attorney’s fees for expunging a felony in Ohio are the most expensive cost.

A lawyer can also advise you as to alternatives to expungement. 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, though not always, as in Ohio, mentioned above.

Remember that you can seek assistance from legal aid or other indigent service providers, however, and may be able to represent yourself.

How can you get legal help?

Expunging a felony conviction is the right step in the rehabilitation process, but not all felonies will qualify. It’s not easy to know when or how to expunge a felony.

You can also have a conviction sealed, which may be easier and less costly. Typically the cost of expunging a felony includes court costs. In some cases, an application fee is also required. If you hire an attorney, those costs rise initially. You may spend less because you’re only going through the process once.

If you need guidance to expunge a conviction, contact a criminal lawyer for help. A criminal attorney in your area can walk through the requirements specific to your state and jurisdiction. You can search for felony expungement attorneys in your area by entering your ZIP code in our search tool and searching for criminal lawyers.

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