Expunging or Sealing Adult Criminal Records in the District of Columbia

In the District of Columbia, your criminal record can be sealed -- that is, erased or "expunged" -- under the circumstances described below. If your record is sealed, you do not in most cases have to disclose that the arrest, charge, trial, or conviction occurred. (D.C. Code § 16-802 and -803.)

Expungement or Sealing If You Were Not Convicted of a Crime

If you can prove your innocence. In the District of Columbia, you can always petition to have your criminal records sealed if you can show that you were innocent of the crime for which you were arrested or charged.  (D.C. Code § 16-802.)

Eligible misdemeanor offenses, after two years. If you were arrested for, or arrested and charged with, an eligible misdemeanor offense, you may petition to have your criminal records sealed if:

  • you were not convicted of the offense
  • at least two years have passed since your case ended, and
  • you don’t have another arrest or conviction that disqualifies you.

(D.C. Code § 16-803.)

There is a long list of misdemeanor offenses -- including driving under the influence and sex offenses -- that are not eligible for expungement after two years. Carefully read D.C. Code § 16-801 or consult a criminal law attorney to learn whether or not your arrest or charge qualifies.

Other offenses, after five years. If you were arrested but not charged, or arrested and charged with any other offense, you may petition to have your criminal records sealed if:

  • you were not convicted
  • at least five years have passed since your case ended, and
  • you don’t have another arrest or conviction that disqualifies you.

(D.C. Code § 16-803.)

Expungement or Sealing If You Have Been Convicted of a Crime

If you were convicted of an eligible misdemeanor or an eligible felony, you may petition to have your criminal records sealed if:

  • at least ten years have passed since you completed your sentence, and
  • you don’t have a disqualifying arrest or conviction.

(D.C. Code § 16-803.)

The only “eligible felony” is failure to appear, and the list of ineligible misdemeanors is long. Carefully read D.C. Code § 16-801 or consult a criminal law attorney to learn whether or not your conviction qualifies.

Getting Legal Help

The District of Columbia Public Defender Service offers a self-help packet that can assist you in filing for expungement. But be aware that cleaning up your criminal record can be complicated. To learn more about expunging criminal records in Washington, D.C., you should contact a qualified criminal defense attorney. A good  attorney can address the details of your personal situation and help you every step of the way.

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