Where available to persons who have been arrested or convicted, expungement does not happen automatically, and is never guaranteed. A person seeking to have an arrest or criminal conviction expunged from their record must usually fill out an application or petition, and submit the paperwork to the proper criminal court for a judge's review and decision. In most jurisdictions, a fee must be paid in conjunction with the filing of the application.
The expungement process can be complicated. For example, some jurisdictions require an applicant to deliver (or "serve") papers on district attorneys, while others require the applicant to prepare the legal document (or "Order of Expungement") which will be signed by the judge. In some cases, a court hearing is required, after which a judge will decide whether to grant the expungement.