In Tennessee, your criminal record may be expunged -- that is, erased or sealed -- under the circumstances described below. If your record is expunged, it will no longer be visible to the general public, including potential employers. In most cases, you may say that you were never arrested or convicted of a crime.
If You Were Not Convicted of a Crime
If you were arrested and released without being charged, you may petition to have the arrest record expunged. If you were charged with a misdemeanor or felony, but not convicted, the related records may be eligible for expungement if any of the following are true:
- the charges against you were dismissed
- a “no true bill” was returned by a grand jury
- the court entered a “nolle prosequi” in your case, or
- you were acquitted.
(Tennessee Statutes § 40-32-101.)
If You Were Convicted of a Crime
Pretrial Diversion Programs
If you successfully completed a pretrial diversion program, your conviction record may be eligible for expungement. Some charges, including sexual offenses, do not qualify. (Tennessee Statutes § 40-32-101.) Learn more about Pretrial Diversion Programs for First Offenders.
If you successfully completed probation, your conviction record may be eligible for expungement. Many offenses, including sexual offenses and driving under the influence, do not qualify. (Tennessee Statutes §§ 40-35-313.)
Orders of Protection
If an order of protection was entered against you and you successfully defended it, you may petition to have the related records destroyed. (Tennessee Statutes § 40-32-101.)
Civil Rights Protests
If you were convicted during a civil rights protest and at least 37 years have passed, special rules may apply to you. Carefully read Tennessee Statutes § 40-32-101(f)(1) or consult a qualified criminal law attorney for more information.
If you are exonerated by the governor, your criminal record will be expunged. (Tennessee Code § 40-27-109.)
How to File
You must file a petition in the court that has jurisdiction over your records. For more information, consult the court clerk.
Getting Legal Help
Cleaning up a criminal history can be complicated. If you are not sure whether your record qualifies for expungement in Tennessee -- or for advice about your personal situation -- you should contact a qualified criminal law attorney. A good lawyer can guide you each step of the way.