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How Do I Seal My Criminal Record In DC?

Updated: Apr 6, 2023

If you’ve been arrested or have a criminal conviction on your record, you may want to look into getting your record sealed. Criminal convictions and arrests make it harder to get jobs or housing when a background check is involved. You don’t want an old arrest or stupid mistake following you around for the rest of your life.

Luckily, in Washington, DC there are a few options to seal your criminal record. You should contact a criminal defense lawyer in DC to help you.

What Is Expungement?

Expungement is the process where a criminal record is sealed or destroyed. After expungement, you won’t need to worry about your record showing up on a background check. It allows people to turn over a new leaf and move on after a conviction or an arrest.

When Can You Ask For Your Record To Be Expunged?

Expungement is allowed under the Criminal Records Sealing Act, but only in limited circumstances. Not everyone is eligible for their record to be expunged.

In general, you can ask for either arrests or convictions to be expunged. It is easier to expunge an arrest record than an actual conviction, but it isn’t possible in every situation. It is also easier to seal a misdemeanor record than a felony record.

There are three circumstances when you can request a sealed record.

The Interest Of Public Justice

You can request that an arrest record be sealed in the interest of public justice if it has been two years from the date of dismissal or acquittal. It’s not automatic. The court will consider:

● The nature of the offense

● Your personal character and history

● Victim’s statements (if applicable)

It’s easier to expunge arrests for victimless and minor misdemeanors. Particularly if you don’t have a criminal record.

You can also request that a misdemeanor conviction is sealed in the interest of public justice 8 years after completing your sentence. However, only certain misdemeanors are eligible. For example, some ineligible misdemeanors include:

● Domestic violence


● A misdemeanor that requires sex offender registration

● Criminal abuse of a vulnerable adult

● Possession of a pistol by a convicted felon

● Failure to report child abuse

● Neglect for a child under 14

● Certain types of fraud

Your lawyer can look specifically at your charges and determine if your misdemeanor conviction is eligible or not.

Actual Innocence

You can also ask for an arrest record to be sealed on the basis of actual innocence. In this case, you are arguing that you are innocent, and therefore, the arrest should be removed from your record.

You don’t have to wait any time before filing the motion to seal and you can prove your innocence by showing that either:

● The offense never happened, or

● You didn’t commit it

You must prove this by a preponderance of the evidence, and the government can argue against you if they so wish.

Decriminalized Or Legalized Conduct

If you have a conviction or arrest for conduct that is now legal or decriminalized, you can request that your record be sealed or expunged. This is very common in the possession of marijuana cases.

In this case, there is no waiting period and you only need to show that the conduct is now legal or decriminalized.

A Special Note On Expunging Felonies

It is much more difficult to expunge a felony arrest or conviction than a misdemeanor or arrest. You may not be able to expunge a felony at all.

You can file a motion to seal your felony arrest record on the grounds of actual innocence immediately. Otherwise, you must wait 10 years after completing your felony sentence to file the motion. Depending on whether or not you have other convictions or arrests on your record, you may not be eligible for expungement.

How To Ask For Your Expungement

You should first speak with a DC criminal defense attorney about filing a motion to seal with the DC Superior Court. You want to make sure that you are eligible for expungement before embarking on the process. Your lawyer will help you to gather the paperwork and take the necessary steps to win the motion.

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