An expunction is a process by which an individual’s arrest records are erased from law enforcement files. In most cases, a person is eligible for an expunction if he or she was acquitted by a judge or if the case was dismissed. Expunctions have become increasingly important because of an increase in both the frequency and ability of businesses and employers to perform background checks. Law enforcement agencies keep records about arrests and criminal charges; an expunction can remove criminal records from government agency files but not from private businesses.
An expunction begins with a petition that is prepared, signed and filed with a district court. Next, any government agency that maintains arrest records for the petitioner will be notified of the lawsuit, and then a hearing will be scheduled. If the expunction is granted, the individual has the right from then on to deny that an arrest or criminal charge ever existed, except in the event of the individual testifying under oath. After the expunction is final, it becomes a criminal offense for law enforcement agencies to disclose any records that have been expunged.