Have you ever been arrested or given a citation that you had to appear in court about, something more than a speeding ticket? A few examples are: public intoxication, due care, reckless driving, simple possession, or vandalism. If so, you may be eligible to have your record expunged under Tennessee law if the offense occurred in Tennessee. Many people by mistake, believe that an old dismissed charge will not show up on their record because it is old or was dismissed. This is usually incorrect because the initial record of arrest still remains forever. Often with only a small amount of work, your complete criminal history can be totally free of evidence of a prior “run-in” with the law.
What is expungement? It is a process by which dismissals, diversions, and some convictions can be erased from your public record. This means that an eligible offense will not show on a background check.
How your case was resolved is important! Were all or some of your charges dismissed, were you placed on diversion, or were you convicted? Under all of these scenarios you may be eligible for an expungement.
If your charges were dismissed you are almost certainly eligible for an expungement. Dismissal occurs when the State decides not to prosecute the case against you or the State and you enter an agreement that results in the charge being dismissed. If you fit into this category, you are almost guaranteed to be eligible for an expungement.
If you were placed on pretrial or judicial diversion and successfully complete it, you may be eligible for expungement. In a nutshell, diversion allows you to avoid a conviction attaching to your record if you complete all of the terms of the program. After the completion of the program for a small fee paid to the government, the charge is eligible for expungement from your record. The benefit is that your record is clean after the expungement is completed. Diversions are expugnable in nearly all circumstances. It is important to speak with an attorney prior to accepting any diversion offers to determine if it is eligible for expungement.
What if you were convicted of a crime? You may still be eligible for an expungement. The Tennessee legislature has made most misdemeanor offenses and some felonies eligible for expungement. In order to qualify, you must only have one conviction on your record and the legislature must have made that conviction eligible for expungement. You may apply to have this charge expunged. You have to pay the petition-filing fee and get approved by the district attorney and judge. In some cases there may have to be a hearing.
The benefits of an expungement are that your record could be cleaned up or even completely eliminated depending on your situation. A clean record makes you more appealing to employers, landlords, educational institutions, folks considering you for prosecution, and more.
If you have had charges dismissed, been on diversion, or even been convicted of a crime you should talk to a criminal defense attorney about whether your charges are eligible for expungement. The process is inexpensive and can have a drastic effect on your life.
Marcos Garza is the owner of Garza Law Firm, PLLC, a Tennessee Law Firm dedicated to the full service of motorcyclists, bikers, cruiser and crotch rocket riders across the state. Please direct all comments and follow up questions to him at (865) 540-8300 firstname.lastname@example.org.