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Expunging a Criminal Record in the District of Columbia

Aug 22, 2013 | Criminal Law

By Peter Casciano, Esq. at pcasciano@a-f.net

In the District of Columbia there are two ways to expunge (read: seal) records created when one is charged with a crime. First, the person may allege that they were actually innocent of the crime they were charged with. Second, the person may request to expunge a criminal record based on time elapsed.

Expunging a Criminal Record Based on Innocence

If a person is alleging that they are actually innocent of the crime for which they were charged, it helps greatly if they were never convicted, but this is not a requirement. The burden is on the one seeking expungement to prove that the offense charged didn’t occur or that he/she didn’t commit the offense. If an individual goes this route, they should be prepared to re-litigate the issues related to guilt or innocence in the form of a hearing.

It’s important to note that during the trial (if the original case went to trial) the burden of proof was on the prosecutor to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the crime. In order to expunge a criminal record in DC, the defendant now has the burden of proof. Further complicating this process is that the earlier the defendant files for expungement, the lower the burden of proof placed on the movant. Therefore, it’s critical to file for expungement based on actual innocence within four years of the conclusion of the case.

Expunging a Criminal Record Based on Time Elapsed

The process for expunging a criminal record in the District of Columbia is far easier when a person files based on time elapsed. One need not prove innocence here. As long as no conviction resulted from the original crime and as long as the individual hasn’t been arrested or convicted since, one can file for an expungement after waiting a certain amount of time after the case was completed. The waiting period is related to the offense with which the defendant was charged, but it varies from two to four years.

Lastly, some records may be eligible for expungement even if they resulted in a criminal conviction. This requires an eight year waiting period with no criminal trouble and only applies to certain qualifying misdemeanors and felonies.

Need help navigating this somewhat complex system?  Contact us for assistance expunging a criminal record in the District of Columbia.

Peter Casciano, Esq.