Written by attorney Lisa Manning

D.C. Expungement Law: Sealing your criminal record in the District of Columbia

Expungement is the legal process of deleting, sealing or redacting records related to a criminal charge. Expungement law varies by state and is virtually nonexistent for federal crimes.

In the District of Columbia, most “expungement" motions are filed under the Criminal Record Sealing Act of 2006 and are therefore referred to as “record sealing." Note that the D.C. Code contains separate sections for sealing Youth Rehabilitation Act records and expunging certain drug possession charges. This AVVO Legal Guide focuses on the most commonly used law to mitigate DC records, the Criminal Record Sealing Act. I plan to address the Youth Act and drug possession record sealing statutes in separate guides soon.

The Criminal Record Sealing Act provides that you can file to seal your criminal record if:

1) You are innocent AND you can prove it.


2) You were:

a. NOT convicted OR

b. convicted of felony failure to appear or an eligible misdemeanor*;


c. have not been convicted since,

d. have no pending cases,

e. never have been convicted of a felony or certain misdemeanors AND

f. have satisfied the required waiting period since the end of your case before filing

(2 to 8 years depending on the final disposition of your case).

*To determine eligibility of your misdemeanor charge, please consult the long list of ineligible misdemeanors in the Record Sealing Act, D.C. Code § 16-801(9).

Note that you must seal all DC charges in a single Motion, and must wait to file until all are eligible. The Record Sealing Act requires a different standard of proof for each category of case, so be especially careful with presenting your arguments when filing to seal multiple charges.

You can check the final disposition and current status of a record online through the link below:

If you think your charge meets the criteria above, you can then prepare to file a Motion to Seal Criminal Records. Many people choose to hire a lawyer to handle their Motion, but you are also allowed to file pro se (representing yourself). The following is a very brief summary of the record sealing process. If you decide to file on your own, the DC Public Defender Service can provide more detailed materials. The first step is to obtain copies of your police, court and sentence completion records. You will then need to write a Motion, Memorandum and proposed Order and submit them, along with the relevant supporting documents, to the Superior Court Criminal Division Clerk’s Office. A judge will review your filing, and will likely order the government to respond within 60 days. The Court will make the final decision on whether to seal your record. If you are successful in obtaining a Court Order, be sure that you or your lawyer follows up with all agencies involved in your case – Superior Court, the U.S. Attorney’s Office/the Office of the Attorney General, the arresting law enforcement agency, detention facility, Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency and the FBI – to ensure their compliance.

NOTE: This post provides general information on expungement. The information contained herein is not intended as legal advice, and you should therefore not act upon it before consulting with professional legal counsel. To obtain legal services from any law firm, including Record Absolutions, you must first establish an attorney-client relationship. This requires personal contact with us, and our determination that we are willing to take the engagement. Until all of these steps are complete, you have not hired an attorney and have not become a client of the firm. Thank you for your understanding.

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