How Do I Seal or Expunge My Record in DC?

If you are planning to seal or expunge your record in DC, you may want to know how the process works and when to contact an attorney. Below, we have provided some answers to frequently asked questions about the expungement or record dealing process in DC. If you have any further questions, or you need help, contact a DC record sealing lawyer for a free consultation.

What Should I Know About the DC Record Sealing Process Before Contacting a Lawyer?

It is important to know that it won’t happen overnight. Record sealing motions are very different than when a person is charged with a crime. As criminal defendant, they have constitutional rights to a speedy trial. Someone filing a record sealing motion does not enjoy those rights because their liberty is no longer at stake; there’s no chance of them going to prison or jail.

The judges here handle the motions as they come in. Many of these judges have full calendars of criminal or other cases that they’re trying at the same time, so these are not necessarily the highest priority in the criminal judges’ chambers. Record sealing motions commonly take six or more months to resolve.

People should also know that there are no guarantees on any motion to seal in DC. In some states, for example, if you were not convicted of a crime, you’re automatically eligible for an expungement or sealing of the records. Here, there’s always discretion in the judge’s hands whether or not the person is deserving of having their record sealed or destroyed.

Something else that the people should know is that they really need to be able to provide records or at least give a full disclosure of their criminal history to an attorney when they’re getting a consultation because there are eligibility requirements that are based on a person’s entire criminal record, whether the cases are in DC or another jurisdiction.

How Do You Seal Your Arrest Record In DC?

The first thing I do is gather as many documents related to a person’s case or cases that are publicly available. For example I will send an investigator to the Metropolitan Police Department and get a full criminal arrest history. I will go to D.C. Superior Court and try and get a full court history.

For many people, if they’ve never lived anywhere else, they might have a charge or an arrest in Maryland or Virginia, but probably not in the rest of the country, so we will check their records in those states. If someone tells us they’ve lived elsewhere, then we’ll check elsewhere for records.

And while that’s going on, I would ask that the client start thinking about some useful facts for these motions. These motions to seal a record are very fact specific and they vary from individual to individual. Usually what I’m looking for is evidence of good character, perhaps reformation if they have a lengthy criminal history or perhaps I need just basic facts about the offense itself. I often need a person’s short version of what happened that led to their arrest, but really it varies case to case.

What Is The Role of The Prosecutors In a DC Record Sealing Case?

The government, which is represented by the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia or the Office of Attorney General for the District of Columbia, both of which are prosecutor’s offices, has a somewhat limited role in these motions. A person, through their attorney files one of these motions with the court, the court reviews it and then asks for the government’s opinion. Essentially, the Court asks “do you, Mr. Prosecutor or Ms. Prosecutor, believe that this person is worthy of having their record sealed?” The government only has two potential responses – either oppose or not oppose the motion.

The government has full discretion to go either way on that question. They will gather a variety of evidence from the case, review it, and weigh in with the court. But outside of that, the government really has a limited role in these cases, the discretion is in the hands of the judge and a lot of the motivation and scheduling and driving impetus behind the motion is really on the client’s side.