What felonies cannot be expunged?

Posted by Neil Shouse | Mar 22, 2020 | 0 Comments

Many felonies cannot be expunged. Each state has its own rules. Some states will not expunge any felonies. Others will expunge most of the offenses. Some felonies are almost never eligible for expungement. These include murder, serious violent crimes, and sex crimes involving children.

In many cases, there is a waiting period to expunge a conviction. There may be other requirements, as well.

In most states, if a felony is expunged, it will be sealed from public view. Private parties will not be able to see it on your criminal history. The felony will be hidden from:

  • neighbors,
  • strangers,
  • employers,
  • journalists, and
  • landlords.
criminal record folder

What records are eligible for expungement?

Each state has its own list of criminal records that can be expunged. What is eligible for expungement will depend on the state.

Certain criminal records are more likely to be eligible for expungement than others. These records are:

  • juvenile offenses,
  • charges that were dropped or dismissed,
  • arrest records,
  • infractions,
  • non-violent crimes, and
  • low-level misdemeanors.

Convictions are the type of records that are the least likely to be sealed.

Can felonies be expunged?

Convictions for a felony are less likely to be eligible for expungement than a misdemeanor.

Again, there are a lot of differences between states.

In some states, no felony conviction can be expunged. These states include:

  • Iowa,1
  • Arizona,2
  • Nebraska,3
  • Texas,4 and
  • Montana.5

In some states, the list of felonies that can be expunged is very short. These include:

  • Colorado,6
  • California,7 and
  • Wisconsin.8

In still other states, though, most felonies can be expunged. Only the most severe offenses are ineligible. These states include:

  • Oregon,9
  • Washington,10
  • Utah,11 and
  • Nevada.12

Are there any felonies that will never be expunged?

In the states that are the most generous with expungement, there are still some felonies that cannot be sealed. Some of these crimes can include:

  • murder,
  • rape,
  • assault with a deadly weapon that causes a serious injury,
  • arson,
  • terrorism,
  • capital offenses, and
  • crimes that carry life in prison.
man possibly having one too many drinks
Certain states do not allow DUIs to be expunged from one's record

What about DUI?

Driving under the influence (DUI) is not eligible for expungement in a surprising number of states. Many states expressly prohibit expungement of a DUI conviction or guilty plea.

Some of these states include:

  • Colorado,
  • Oregon, and
  • Washington.

Does an expungement completely hide a criminal record?

An expungement is supposed to hide a criminal record from public view. It does not destroy the record of a felony conviction. It just seals it so no one in the public can see it. Certain government agencies can still access it.

However, in some states, an expunged record can still be seen. These states may refer to the process as expungement or by another term, like:

  • sealing criminal records,
  • set-aside,
  • dismissal, or
  • restoration of rights.

Are there other limitations to expunging a felony?

Most states have a long list of requirements that need to be met for a felony to be expunged. These requirements typically include:

  • a waiting period,
  • maintaining a clean record, often with no arrests, since the conviction,
  • completing the sentence, including probation,
  • paying all court fees and restitution, and
  • completing the expungement application process.

Each state has its own requirements. They can be very strict or relatively easy.

For example, in California, felony convictions can only be expunged if:

  • no time was served in state prison,
  • felony probation was successfully completed, and
  • the applicant is not currently facing criminal charges, on probation, or serving another sentence.

Expungement is not available for certain criminal offenses, even if these requirements are met. These include:

  • sodomy with a child,
  • lewd acts with a child,
  • statutory rape, and
  • oral copulation with a child.13

Legal References:

  1. Iowa Code 901C.3.

  2. Arizona Statute 13-907, which restores “civil rights that were lost or suspended,” but does not seal the conviction from the public.

  3. NRS 29-2264 and State v. Coble, 908 NW 2d 646 (2018).

  4. Texas Government Code 411.073 and 411.0735.

  5. Montana Code 46-18-1101.

  6. CRS 24-72-704 to 24-72-70, which only allows certain felony offenses involving drugs to be expunged.

  7. California Penal Code 1203.425, which only allows felonies to be expunged if no jail time was served.

  8. Wisconsin Statute 973.015, only allowing expungement of a felony if the defendant was under 25 and the maximum jail sentence was 6 years or less.

  9. Oregon Code 137.225, which allows all but Class A felonies and Class B “person felonies” to be expunged.

  10. RCW 9.94A.640, allowing expunction except for certain listed felonies.

  11. Utah Code 77-40-105, which allows felonies to be expunged except those listed in 77-40-105(2)(a).

  12. NRS 179.245, which allows expungement for all felonies except for the short list of offenses in 179.245(1) and (6).

  13. California Penal Code 1203.4 PC.

About the Author

Neil Shouse

A former Los Angeles prosecutor, attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT). He has been featured on CNN, Good Morning America, Dr Phil, Court TV, The Today Show and Court TV. Mr Shouse has been recognized by the National Trial Lawyers as one of the Top 100 Criminal and Top 100 Civil Attorneys.


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