Expunging or Sealing Adult Criminal Records in Kentucky

Learn who's eligible, what records qualify, and how to get an expungement in Kentucky.

By , Attorney · Mitchell Hamline School of Law
Updated 12/08/2023

Kentucky offers a few methods to expunge criminal records, including arrest, charging, and certain conviction records. Learn whether expungement may be an option for you.

What Is Expungement? Why Expunge Your Criminal Record in Kentucky?

Having a criminal record can make it difficult—or, sometimes, impossible—to get a job, housing, or a loan. Expungement laws allow people to ask the court to hide or destroy certain criminal records, which can open the door to more job opportunities or a better living situation.

In Kentucky, a person can ask a judge to expunge arrest and charging records where no conviction resulted, as well as conviction records for most misdemeanors and many class D felonies. If expunged, any agency holding the record must delete or remove the record so that it will not appear on official state-performed background checks. A person can legally deny the expunged record's existence on any application, such as employment and credit applications. Also, expunging a felony record may restore a person's ability to vote.

Who Is Eligible for Expungement in Kentucky?

To qualify for expungement, eligibility requirements apply to both the record and the applicant.

Applicant Seeking to Expunge Non-Conviction Records

Any person who receives an acquittal or dismissal with prejudice can seek an expungement. (In some cases, the records are expunged automatically.) The same applies to dismissals without prejudice and cases where there was a failure to indict. Wait periods may apply depending on the disposition (result of the case).

Applicant Seeking to Expunge Conviction Records

For expungement requests of eligible conviction records, no one can apply until at least five years have passed since completion of their sentence (including any time spent on probation and payment of fines.)

Also, at the time of application, the person must have:

  • no pending criminal charges, and
  • no felony or misdemeanor convictions in the past five years.

The applicant will need to pay filing fees with the court.

(Ky. Rev. Stat. §§ 431.073, 431.076, 431.078 (2023).)

Expunging Non-Conviction Records in Kentucky

A person who is arrested or charged but not convicted still has a criminal record. A background check will show arrest records, charging and booking documents, and court records. This may happen if charges are dismissed or a person is acquitted. Non-conviction records are the simplest records to get expunged, and it's important not to overlook them.


Anyone receiving an acquittal (a finding of not guilty) on or after July 15, 2020, will have their record automatically expunged by the court after 30 days. For acquittals before that date, a person will need to petition the court for expungement but no filing fees apply.

Dismissed Charges

There are two types of dismissed charges, those dismissed with and without prejudice.

Charges dismissed with prejudice follow a process similar to acquittals. If the dismissal occurred on or after July 15, 2020, these records should be automatically expunged by the court within 30 days. For older records, the person can petition the court. There are no filing fees.

Charges dismissed without prejudice can also be expunged, but a person must apply and wait a set amount of time. A person seeking to expunge dismissed misdemeanor charges must wait one year. A three-year wait period applies to dismissed felony charges. There are no filing fees.

Failure to Indict

If a person is charged with a felony but the grand jury doesn't indict, a person can ask the court to expunge the charges once six months have passed. The six months start once the matter goes to the grand jury. No filing fees apply, but the prosecutor may object to the expungement.

(Ky. Rev. Stat. § 431.076 (2023).)

Expunging Conviction Records in Kentucky

Kentucky allows a person to expunge an unlimited number of eligible misdemeanor convictions. Only certain class D felony convictions qualify for expungement. If a person receives a pardon, the offense type or level doesn't matter—all pardoned convictions can be expunged.

Expunging Misdemeanor Convictions

Eligible persons (see above "Who Is Eligible?") can ask to expunge any number of misdemeanor convictions, except for sexual-based offenses and crimes against children.

Wait periods. Most misdemeanors are eligible for expungement after 5 years. However, if a misdemeanor can be enhanced for a subsequent offense, it can't be expunged until the enhancement period has run. For instance, a person with a misdemeanor DUI faces a harsher sentence for a subsequent DUI. The court can look back 10 years on a person's record for a DUI enhancement. This means a person must wait 10 years, rather than 5 years, to expunge a misdemeanor DUI.

Mandatory or discretionary. When a person asks to expunge a single misdemeanor conviction, the judge must grant the expungement. Expungement for multiple misdemeanors, however, is discretionary (meaning the judge can deny the request).

Expunging Felony Convictions

Kentucky allows the expungement of class D felonies by eligible individuals (see above "Who Is Eligible?"). Class A, B, and C felony convictions cannot be expunged, unless the person received a pardon.

Eligible class D felonies. Many class D felonies may be expunged. A list of eligible felonies can be found in statute (section 431.073) and on the Kentucky Court of Justice website.

Wait period. The wait period for class D felony expungement is five years following completion of the sentence.

One or multiple felonies. Before 2023, an eligible person could only get one class D felony expunged in their lifetime. Now, multiple class D felonies may be expunged but different procedures apply, including a mandatory hearing and higher burden of proof. This higher burden requires the applicant to show a judge by clear and convincing evidence that:

  • the applicant is living a law-abiding life and actively working to rehabilitate (improve their life), and
  • expunging the record is in the interests of public safety and justice.

Discretionary. For any class D felony expungement, it's up to the judge whether or not to grant the petition.

(Ky. Rev. Stat. §§ 431.073, 431.078 (2023).)

How to Get Criminal Records and Convictions Expunged in Kentucky

The process to expunge records differs depending on the type of record (non-conviction or conviction). Petitions that need to be filed with the court are available on the Kentucky Court of Justice website.

How to Expunge Non-Conviction Records

For records where no conviction resulted (and automatic expungement doesn't apply), a person needs to fill out a petition and file it with the court. A person should file a petition in the court where the charges were filed. There are no filing fees to expunge non-conviction records.

How to Expunge Conviction Records

The expungement process for conviction records involves a few more steps, plus fees.

  • The person first needs to get an expungement certification from the court. There's an online form and a fee.
  • After receiving the certification, a person must fill out the expungement petition (found online) and file it with the court where the conviction occurred. This must be done within 30 days—before the certification expires.
  • The person will need to pay another fee to file the expungement petition. People who can't pay the fee can ask for an installment plan or ask for a waiver (which involves another petition to the court).
  • The person may need to attend a court hearing.

(Ky. Rev. Stat. §§ 431.073, 431.076, 431.078, 431.079 (2023).)

Getting Help With an Expungement in Kentucky

It's possible to get an expungement without an attorney. In addition to the Kentucky Court of Justice website, several organizations offer information online and may even assist with filling out forms, such as Kentucky Justice, Clean Slate Kentucky, Expunge Kentucky, Legal Aid of the Bluegrass, Legal Aid Society, Kentucky Legal Aid, and AppalReD Legal Aid.

If you're overwhelmed by the process or want to expunge multiple felony convictions, you may want to consider hiring an attorney. An attorney can help you navigate the process and represent you at any court hearings.

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