Criminal Law and Procedure Expungement Law and Legal Definition

Expungement is the process of legally destroying, obliterating or striking out records or information in files, computers and other depositories relating to criminal charges. State laws, which vary by state, govern the expungement of criminal records. The records cannot be accessed for general law enforcement or civil use. An expunged record may usually not be considered by any private or public entity in employment matters, certification, licensing, revocation of certification or licensure, or registration. However, some states allow expunged records to be accessed for employment or licensing in certain sensitive positions, such as law enforcement or work involving children or elderly persons.

Expungement of records usually requires a formal request for expungement by the subject person of the records. States laws vary regarding when a request for expungement may be made and what records, i.e., records of arrest, fingerprints, etc., may be expunged. However, some laws allow automatic expungement in certain instances, such as for juvenile records of adults and first offenders who successfully complete a diversionary sentence. Local laws should be consulted to determine what requirements apply to expungement in your state.