DC Expungement Lawyer: Interest of Justice

If you have a criminal record in the District of Columbia, you may be eligible to have your arrest record sealed. Determining your eligibility and petitioning the court for an order to seal is a complicated procedure. A DC expungement lawyer who is familiar with the intricacies of the record sealing process can provide valuable assistance.

Record sealing is sometimes referred to as an expungement, but they are not the same. An expungement results in the destruction of all records relating to your arrest. Sealing results in the destruction of some records, but various law enforcement agencies and courts are authorized to maintain a non-public copy of your file. The DC Council has only authorized judges to seal records, rather than fully expunge them.

Sealing an Arrest Record on the Grounds of the Interest of Justice

Sometimes the prosecution of certain crimes ends without an adjudication of guilt or innocence, and no conviction is recorded. Nevertheless, the record of arrest and charges filed linger as a criminal record forever. Records of a conviction are also usually permanently available to the public. Under certain circumstances, the District of Columbia provides a procedure to expunge or seal a criminal record.

Determining Eligibility

Your eligibility to file an interest of justice motion is dictated by several interrelated factors. Common factors include: the severity of your offense or offenses, the number of offenses you have allegedly committed, the disposition of any charges brought against you in the District of Columbia or elsewhere, and whether you have any pending arrests or charges at the time you file your motion to seal. General information regarding eligibility follows, but you should consult a DC expungement lawyer for a full analysis of your record and potential eligibility to file a motion to seal. Some defendants whose cases ended without conviction may be good candidates to file another type of record sealing motion, provided they can prove they were factually innocent of the crime for which they were arrested.

Charges Not Resulting in a Conviction

If your criminal record reports an arrest in the District of Columbia for a misdemeanor or felony that did not result in a conviction.

You may be eligible to have the record of that arrest expunged if:

  • Four years since the dismissal of any “ineligible misdemeanor” or felony. A list of ineligible misdemeanors is included in DC Code 16-801(9).
  • Three years have passed since the government declined to “paper” an ineligible misdemeanor or felony (that is, if no formal charges were filed with the court after your arrest).
  • Two years have passed since the dismissal of any “eligible misdemeanor.” An eligible misdemeanor is defined as any misdemeanor that the DC Council has not included on the ineligible misdemeanor list.

Any open criminal cases after the arrest for which relief if sought will render a person ineligible to file an interest of justice motion.

Charges Resulting In Conviction

If you have been convicted of an eligible misdemeanor or felony failure to appear, you may be eligible to file a motion to seal eight years after the completion of any sentence imposed by the court, including probation, parole, and the payment of any fines or court costs. You may not have any pending charges or subsequent convictions on your record. Unfortunately, defendants who are convicted of an ineligible misdemeanor or any other felony are not eligible to seal the conviction on interest of justice grounds.

Standard of Proof and Burden of Proof

For cases involving eligible misdemeanor non-convictions the burden is on the prosecution to establish by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not) that it is not in the interests of justice to grant the expungement motion.

For every other non-conviction, the burden is on the person seeking expungement to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that it is in the interests of justice to grant the motion.

For cases involving an eligible conviction, the burden is on the movant to prove by clear and convincing evidence that it is in the interest of justice to grant the motion.

No matter which category your offense falls under, a DC expungement lawyer can help you to put together a convincing body of evidence and present that information in a court of law as you seek to clear your name.

Effect of Expungement

If the motion to seal in the interest of justice is granted, the person who made the motion can legally and honestly deny the arrest or charge to anyone other than:

  • Any court
  • Any federal, state, or local prosecutor
  • Any law enforcement agency
  • Any licensing agency
  • Any licensed school, day care center, or other facility involving children
  • Any government employer or nominating/tenure commission with respect to employment of a judicial or quasi-judicial officer or employment officer at a senior-level, executive-grade government position

Hiring a DC Expungement Lawyer

Because sealing the record of a criminal arrest or conviction is a delicate process that can result in excellent opportunities if handled correctly, it is important to seek out a DC Expungement lawyer who can address the important details of the procedure. By seeking out legal counsel, you are making an investment in yourself and your future.