When you have a criminal record, it can seem like it's following you everywhere - from getting a job to finding a place to live. A criminal record can impact your daily life for years to come. However, in some cases, you may be eligible to have your record (or certain charges) expunged - meaning that it will no longer be accessible to the public, potentially enabling you to get your life back on track.
In this blog, we'll cover the key things you need to know about expungement in Tennessee.
What You Need to Know
Expungement is the process of sealing or erasing a criminal record from public access. In Tennessee, if a criminal record is expunged, it is entirely removed from the public record, and it is as if the arrest or charge never happened. Not only does this clear your record, but it also erases the stigma that comes with having a criminal record, making it easier for you to move forward with your life.
Expungement is a valuable tool that can help you rebuild your life after a criminal conviction.
Who Can See Your Criminal Record After It Is Expunged?
Once your criminal record has been expunged, it will no longer be publicly available. This means that potential employers, landlords, or anyone else who might be interested in your criminal history (except for law enforcement agencies) won't be able to access your criminal record. However, there may be a few exceptions. Some government agencies and law enforcement entities may retain access to your criminal record even after it has been expunged.
Additionally, in some rare cases, certain types of criminal investigations or security clearance checks may also be able to uncover your expunged criminal record. However, in general, your expunged criminal record will no longer be an obstacle to obtaining employment, housing, or other opportunities that may have previously been closed to you.
Which Criminal Charges Can & Cannot Be Expunged in Tennessee?
Not all charges and convictions can be expunged in Tennessee. Some charges that cannot be expunged include severe felonies, sex crimes, and certain types of DUIs. However, misdemeanors, non-violent felonies, and many drug offenses may be eligible for expungement.
To give you an idea, a potentially expungable offense in Tennessee is a first-time drug possession or a charge that was dismissed or resulted in a not-guilty verdict. Additionally, if you received your conviction as a minor, you may have further options for expungement or record sealing.
Determining Eligibility for Expungement
The nature of the offense determines eligibility for expungement in Tennessee. Other factors considered include the length of time since the offense was committed and whether or not any additional criminal charges have been brought against you since your original offense. The courts will also assess whether you have completed all sentencing requirements successfully.
Tennessee Code § 40-30-101 outlines the process by which someone can petition the courts for expungement and which charges can and cannot be expunged. Someone may be eligible for expungement if:
- They have not been convicted of a criminal offense that is ineligible for expungement
- They have not previously been granted an expungement for another criminal offense under the same statute
- It has been at least five years since they completed their sentence, or 10 years depending on the charges
- All sentencing requirements have been fulfilled
If you are unsure if you are eligible for expungement, you can contact the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) to check your eligibility (there is usually a $100 fee for requesting an eligibility check). The TBI has a website where you can fill out an online form to get an estimate of your eligibility.
The best way to determine if you are eligible for the expungement of criminal charges is to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney like ours at Casey, Simmons & Bryant, PLLC.