Expunging or Sealing Adult Criminal Records in Iowa

Learn what criminal records may be eligible for expungement in Iowa and how to get a record expunged.

By , Master of Science in Library and Information Science, Long Island University
Updated by Rebecca Pirius, Attorney · Mitchell Hamline School of Law
Updated April 21, 2023

The options for expunging or sealing a criminal record in Iowa are limited. Many non-conviction records can be expunged. But for convictions, your record may qualify for expungement only if:

  • the conviction is an eligible misdemeanor
  • the conviction was for an eligible alcohol-related or juvenile prostitution offense, or
  • you obtained deferred judgment at the time of your conviction and successfully completed probation.

In addition, if your Iowa criminal record contains errors, you may request that it be corrected. Each of these situations is discussed below.

What Is Expungement? Who Can See an Expunged Record in Iowa?

Expunging a record doesn't erase its existence. However, the public won't have access to the record, which means the record won't show up for prospective employers, landlords, and others. The expunged record becomes a confidential record. Most expunged records can still be accessed by the court and criminal justice agencies for future charging and sentencing decisions.

How Does Expungement Work in Iowa?

Iowa's expungement laws are limited to non-conviction records for dismissals or acquittals and conviction records for deferred judgments, alcohol-related offenses, juvenile prostitution offenses, and certain misdemeanors. The law outlines different eligibility requirements for each type of record. For most records, there's no limit on the number of times a person can request expungement. But for misdemeanor convictions, expungement is limited to one case and offered only once in a lifetime.

Getting Non-Conviction Records Expunged

If you were arrested and charged with a crime, your record may be eligible for expungement if ALL charges against you were dropped or you were found not guilty of the offense, and:

  • you have paid all court costs and fees associated with your case, and
  • you wait at least 180 days from the date of your acquittal or the dismissal of your case to apply.

Your record is not eligible for expungement if your case was dismissed because you were found not guilty by reason of insanity or if you were found incompetent to stand trial. (Iowa Code § 901C.2 (2022).)

Getting a Deferred Judgment Expunged

For most misdemeanor crimes and some felonies, the court can defer judgment and place a defendant on probation rather than imposing a sentence. If the defendant successfully completes probation, the defendant is discharged and no conviction is entered. The defendant may then have the related record expunged. In most cases, the judge automatically orders expungement of the record (and no application is needed). (Iowa Code § 907.9 (2022).)

Getting Convictions for Alcohol-Related and Juvenile Prostitution Offenses Expunged

If you were convicted of public intoxication, underage drinking, or juvenile prostitution, you can petition to have the related record expunged after two years have passed. Your criminal record must have been clean during the two-year period, except for minor traffic violations. This rule does not apply to driving under the influence. (Iowa Code §§ 123.46, 123.47, 725.1 (2022).)

Getting a Misdemeanor Conviction Expunged

A person can get one misdemeanor conviction record expunged in their lifetime. A record can include multiple charges (and even multiple cases), but all charges must stem from the same offense. The person must wait eight years after conviction, pay all court-ordered costs, have no pending criminal charges, and have no more than one deferred judgment on record.

The law lists over two dozen misdemeanors that can never be expunged. Some examples of ineligible misdemeanors include impaired driving offenses, sex offenses, stalking, harassment, weapons violation, certain assaults, and domestic cases.

Because of the once-in-a-lifetime rule, a person may want to seek legal advice if they have multiple misdemeanor convictions on record to determine the best record to expunge. (Iowa Code § 901C.3 (2022).)

How to Get a Record Expunged in Iowa

In most cases, the person seeking an expungement will need to file an application with the court in the county where the offense occurred and serve a copy of the application with the county attorney. Expungement in deferred judgment cases will usually be automatically done by the judge.

You can find the applications on the Iowa Judicial Branch website. Click on "For the Public" and then "Court Forms" to find the "Expunge Court Record" folder containing the various applications. Once filed, the county attorney has 20 days to respond. The judge may schedule a hearing or just order the expungement.

(Iowa R. Crim. P. Rule 2.86 (2022).)

How to Correct Your Iowa Criminal Record

If your Iowa criminal record contains errors, you can request it be corrected by contacting the Division of Criminal Investigation. To learn more, read the DCI's online FAQ or search for "correct criminal record"

Getting Help With Expungement in Iowa

In many cases, you can fill out and file the expungement application on your own. If you have questions, check out legal aid options or expungement clinics in Iowa. They may have staff willing to answer questions or help you find and fill out forms. For misdemeanor convictions, you might want to contact a lawyer, especially if you have multiple convictions on record.

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