In New Hampshire, the process of expunging a criminal record is called "annulment." Learn what criminal records can be annulled, what annulment does, and how to get records annulled.
Criminal records can follow a person long after an arrest or conviction, often making it difficult to secure housing, jobs, and an education. New Hampshire law allows eligible persons to ask the court to "annul"—or seal—certain criminal records from public view. Annulment is similar to expungement in other states.
Once annulled, the court seals the record and directs the state police, prosecutor, and law enforcement to remove or seal related files in their records. The law states that the person receiving the annulment can legally tell prospective employers, landlords, and others that they've never been arrested or convicted of the annulled crime.
It's important to know that annulled records are not destroyed. They may be used in future criminal proceedings, as well as when seeking employment as a law enforcement officer. In some circumstances, the public may be able to access annulled records under New Hampshire's Right-to-Know law.
(N.H. Rev. Stat. §§ 91-A:4; 651.5 (2023); Grafton Co. Atty's Office v. Canner, 147 A.3d 410 (N.H. Sup. Ct. 2016).)
New Hampshire permits the following criminal records to be annulled:
Misdemeanors and felonies that can't be annulled include:
The law also places restrictions on annulling convictions that carry increased penalties for subsequent offenses and those listed under the state's habitual offender statute.
(N.H. Rev. Stat. §§ 651.5, 651.5-b (2023).)
The easiest records to annul are non-conviction records, including arrest and charging records that were dismissed, vacated, or not prosecuted (nolle prossed), or in cases resulting in acquittal or a vacated conviction. These records can be annulled immediately or shortly after the case is done. And there are no restrictions based on the offense type.
If the case ended before January 19, 2019, the person can request annulment at any time. If the case ended on or after January 1, 2019, a person may have to wait a short amount of time before seeking an annulment (usually 30 days or after any appeal is done), depending on how the case ended. No wait period applies for vacated convictions.
(N.H. Rev. Stat. § 651:5 (2023).)
Conviction records may also qualify for annulment in New Hampshire, including some felonies.
New Hampshire decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana back in September 2017. Anyone who was arrested or convicted before that date for knowing possession of ¾ ounce or less of marijuana can get those records annulled. There are no wait periods. (N.H. Rev. Stat. § 651:5-b (2023).)
Convictions for eligible offenses may be annulled after the person completes the entire sentence and the applicable wait period without having any subsequent convictions.
Completion of sentence. Completion of the sentencing includes any incarceration, supervision, and payment of fines and restitution. If a person was convicted of multiple offenses stemming from the same arrest, no records can be annulled until all records qualify.
Wait periods. All conviction records have wait periods before an annulment will be granted, ranging from one year to 10 years. Most wait periods start the day after a person completes their sentence. Below are the wait periods listed in the law.
Judicial discretion. Even if a record qualifies, it's always up to the judge to decide if the annulment should be granted (allowed). The judge must consider how the annulment will affect both the record holder and public welfare. If the judge denies the annulment, the person must wait 3 years to reapply.
(N.H. Rev. Stat. §§ 265-A:21, 651:5, 651:5-b (2023).)
A person must fill out a petition (application) with the court where the arrest or conviction occurred. Forms are available on the New Hampshire Judicial Branch website. Search for "annulment" and look for the applicable petition. Filing fees may also apply, although a person may ask for the fees to be waived if they can't afford them.
If the person has pending charges while the annulment is under consideration, the judge must postpone any decision on the annulment until after the pending case is resolved.
Cleaning up a criminal record can be complicated, and the law can change at any time. If you are not sure whether your record qualifies for annulment in New Hampshire—or for advice about your personal situation—you should contact a qualified criminal law attorney.