Expungement in DC & Record Sealing

Clearing Your Washington, DC Criminal Arrest Record or History through Expungement

Having a criminal record in Washington DC can have far-reaching negative effects on your quality of life. DC criminal records can make it harder to find a well-paying job, affect your eligibility for loans, and make it difficult to rent an apartment. Other possible issues include losing child custody rights, revocation of your driver’s license, and not being allowed to own a firearm—and many, many others.

You do not have to be burdened with a criminal record for life, however. By meeting certain requirements, you may be able to expunge an arrest or conviction and seal your Washington DC arrest records and conviction records.

If the offenses you were arrested or convicted for are eligible for expungement, a Washington DC expungement lawyer can work with you to get your record sealed. Contact Ervin Kibria Law today to schedule a free consultation and explore your options.  

How to Expunge a Criminal Record in DC

Expungement in DC is a complex process that is best handled with the assistance of an experienced and expert Washington DC expungement lawyer. The DC expungement forms and procedures are lengthy and complicated, with many factors to consider in order to present a successful case.

Generally speaking, there are two bases to request an expungement in Washington DC:

  1. Expungement on the basis of actual innocence.
  2. Expungement in the interest of justice.

You may also have to wait a certain amount of time after an arrest or conviction before you are eligible to request expungement.

Expungement on the Basis of Actual Innocence

Per DC Code §16–802, expungement on the basis of actual innocence carries no waiting period after the prosecution of the case has ended. It is available for misdemeanor and felony charges alike.

However, you cannot expunge convictions on the basis of actual innocence. 

To succeed on a motion for expungement in DC on the basis of actual innocence, you have to prove:

  1. The offense for which you were arrested or charged did not occur; or
  2. You did not commit the offense.

If the motion for expungement is made within 4 years of after the prosecution ends, the standard of proof is by a preponderance of the evidence. That means there must be a greater than 50% chance that your claim is true.

If the motion for expungement is made more than 4 years after the prosecution ends, the standard of proof changes to clear and convincing. That means there must be substantially greater than 50% chance that your claim is true.

If your claim succeeds, the court will order your charges expunged and the criminal record sealed. Once that happens, you will not commit perjury if you deny having ever been arrested or charged of the expunged offenses. In essence, you will be restored, in the eyes of the law, to a position before you were arrested or charged.

Expungement in the Interest of Justice

DC Code §16–803 concerns the expungement of a criminal record in the interest of justice. This motion is available for both misdemeanors and felony charges, with the seriousness of the offense affecting the waiting period.  

There are three classes of offenses that are treated differently when it comes to expungement in the interest of justice:

  1. Eligible misdemeanors
  2. Eligible felonies
  3. All other misdemeanors and felonies

In the case of eligible misdemeanors, expungement in the interest of justice is available for arrests and non-convictions 2 years after the prosecution of the case ends. The burden is on the prosecutor to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that it is not in the interest of justice to grant expungement.

In the case of all other misdemeanors and felonies, expungement in the interest of justice is available for arrests and non-convictions 4 years after the prosecution ends, or 3 years if the prosecutor terminated the case before charging. The burden is on you to prove by a preponderance of evidence that expungement should be granted.

In the case of eligible misdemeanors and eligible felonies, expungement in the interest of justice is available for convictions 8 years after the prosecution of the case ends. The burden is on you to prove by clear and convincing evidence that expungement should be granted.  

Any disqualifying arrests or convictions on your record will block your ability to request expungement in the interest of justice. The only exception is when you are attempting to expunge an arrest or non-conviction. In that case, disqualifying misdemeanor convictions only block expungement for 5 years after you serve the sentence while disqualifying felony convictions do so for 10 years.

If expungement is granted, your record will be sealed and you will not be charged with perjury if you fail to acknowledge your arrests and convictions so expunged in response to an inquiry. However, you will still be required to reveal that you have a sealed record if you are asked during jury duty or apply for a position at government and law enforcement agencies.

What Are Eligible Misdemeanors and Felonies in Washington DC?

Per DC Code §16–801, eligible misdemeanors are simply any misdemeanors that are not “ineligible misdemeanors.” The list of ineligible misdemeanors is long and the full list can be found at DC Code §16–801(9).

Of note, ineligible misdemeanors in the District of Columbia includes Driving Under the Influence (DUI), Driving While Impaired (DWI), and Operating While Impaired (OWI). Ineligible misdemeanor convictions cannot be expunged.

An eligible felony in Washington DC solely includes the crime of “failure to appear”.

Special Expungement Rules in Washington DC

Special rules of expungement apply to certain offenses in the District of Columbia. For example, per DC Code §25–1002, purchase, possession, or consumption of alcohol by persons under 21 is a misdemeanor offense, but you only have to wait 6 months to request expungement.

If you have questions about any arrest or conviction on your record and whether they are eligible for expungement, it is best to consult a Washington DC expungement lawyer. Contact expert attorney Nabeel Kibria at Ervin Kibria Law today for a free consultation.