DC Expungement Lawyer – Sealing Criminal Records

Updated on April 15th, 2024 at 08:12 pm

In 2023, the Metropolitan Police Department alone arrested a total of 34,414  individuals in the District of Columbia. Therefore, not surprisingly, having a criminal record in DC is fairly common – but it doesn’t have to be. Getting your criminal record expunged in DC, or “sealed” as it is referred to in the DC Code, is more possible than many believe. However, the District’s rules regarding sealing a criminal record are complicated and confusing. It takes the analysis and expertise of experienced DC expungement lawyers, like those at Bruckheim & Patel, to ensure your likelihood of success.

Securing an expungement in Washington, DC, will ensure that your criminal charge is sealed from the public realm. This is especially important in the District, where the Court’s website allows for quick and easy access to your criminal record to anyone with computer access who knows your name, see DC Court Case Search. This means that any employer, co-worker, friend, or family member can put your name on the website and view the public history of your criminal arrests, charges, or convictions.

Effects of a Criminal Record

Bruckheim & Patel expungement attorneys know that having a criminal record can affect many aspects of your life, including but not limited to:

  • Immigration
  • Gaining employment-
  • Eligibility for security clearance
  • Ability to obtain a driver’s license
  • Admittance for professional certifications or licenses
  • Eligibility for welfare benefits
  • Access to public housing
  • Loss of student loans and other educational benefits
  • Serving in the military
  • Involuntary civil commitment
  • Loss of the right to vote
  • Enhanced prosecution in future criminal matters

Speak to a record-sealing attorney about getting your case expunged to ensure that none of these negative consequences happen to you as a result of your criminal record. The skilled DC expungement attorneys at Bruckheim & Patel can evaluate your criminal record and advise you on the best route to proceed.

Types of Expungements

While only an expert DC expungement attorney can make a full determination of your eligibility to expunge a criminal record, it is helpful to understand some of the basic information about expungement law.

There are three (3) main types of expungements in DC:
(1) “Actual Innocence” expungement;
(2) “Interest of Justice” expungement; and
(3) Decriminalization expungement.

"Actual Innocence" Expungement

“Actual Innocence” expungement is granted when the Judge determines that you were actually innocent of the offense for which you were arrested/charged or that the offense for which you were arrested/charged did not occur. See D.C. Code §16-802. Therefore, the “Actual Innocence” expungement allows you to fully seal your arrest, charge, or conviction if you can prove that you are factually innocent of the charge.

This type of expungement is the most difficult to obtain because it is the defendant’s burden to show that he or she is factually innocent of the offense for which they were arrested or charged. The defendant can meet the burden by presenting evidence, such as affidavits of witnesses, to prove their innocence. The DC expungement attorneys at Bruckheim & Patel will help you determine how best to present your case so that the Judge will be more likely to grant your expungement request.

While this is the most difficult type of expungement to win, the effect of the “Actual Innocence” expungement is the strongest. The idea behind the legislation was that an “Actual Innocence” expungement would return the defendant “to the status he or she occupied before being arrested or charged.” DC Code §16-802(i). In effect, this means that every single document or record that contains any mention of your arrest or charge will be destroyed.

No law enforcement agency, prosecution agency, or employer will be able to access this record. The expungement is so strong that, if granted, you can legally say under oath that you were never arrested or charged with that offense. It is important that this motion is filed completely and accurately. Contact Bruckheim & Patel to get connected with a DC expungement attorney who can ensure your best chance at successfully obtaining an “Actual Innocence” expungement.

"Interest of Justice" Expungement

If a person is not able to actual innocent of the offense, they may be eligible for an “Interest of Justice” expungement. Simply put, the “Interest of Justice” expungement is granted when it is in the best interest of justice to do so. D.C. Code § 16-803. In DC, you are eligible for an “Interest of Justice” expungement if you were not found guilty, if you did not plea guilty, and if a designated waiting period has passed since the conclusion of the case. The amount of time required for the waiting period differs depending on the charge, the disposition of the case, and any other charges or convictions on your criminal record.

The waiting period is not the only factor that the Judge considers when determining whether or not to grant the “Interest of Justice” expungement. The judge also considers (1) the individual interest in sealing the records, (2) the community’s interest in retaining access to the records, and (3) the community’s interest in the defendant’s employability. D.C. Code § 16-802(h)(1). The Judge will also consider personal information, such as educational achievements, work history, involvement in community organizations, family relationships, and any other information that indicates that the defendant is a contributing member of society.

If the Judge grants an “Interest of Justice” expungement, all publicly available records will be sealed. D.C. Code §16-803(l)(1)(A). Unlike “Actual Innocence” expungements, the criminal records will still be available to prosecution and law enforcement agencies. D.C. Code §16-803(l)(1)(C). However, the record will be removed from the public court case search and most employers and members of the public will not be able to access them.

If you believe you may be eligible for an Interest of Justice expungement, do not hesitate to contact the DC record sealing experts at Bruckheim & Patel.

"Decriminalization" Expungement

“Decriminalization” expungement allows for all marijuana possession arrests, charges, and convictions to be sealed from your record.

The Council of the District of Columbia enacted this type of expungement following the decriminalization of marijuana on July 17, 2014. The marijuana decriminalization made “the possession or transfer without remuneration [payment] of marijuana weighing one ounce or less” a civil violation. Marijuana Decriminalization Amendment Act of 2014 §101(a), 61 D.C. Reg. 3482 (2014). The fine for possession or transfer without sale of marijuana is $25. Id. §101(c). Possession of marijuana paraphernalia was also decriminalized. Id.

As of April 23, 2015, the D.C. Code included a provision allowing the sealing of a criminal arrest, charge, or conviction for the possession of marijuana or paraphernalia. D.C. Code §16-803.02 (2015). A person may be eligible to seal a possession of marijuana or paraphernalia record if the arrest was not made in connection with any other criminal code violation and if the arrest did not result in any federal charges. D.C. Code §16-803(1)(A)(i-ii). Unfortunately, this means that a person may not be eligible for an expungement under the D.C. Code if the police claim, for example, that the person was also smoking marijuana in a public place or that the individual possessed marijuana with the intent to distribute.

If the motion is successful, all public records of your arrest, charge, or conviction will be sealed from public record. D.C. §16-803.02(b). There is no waiting period to obtain the “decriminalization” expungement, so the motion can be filed at any time. Contact a DC expungement attorney today to get your possession of marijuana or paraphernalia arrest, charge, or conviction sealed.

Even though this article covers the basic information regarding expungements, only an attorney with expertise in record sealing in the District will be able to give you an accurate analysis of your likelihood of success to get a general or even a dui expungement.

Contact the expungement attorneys at Bruckheim & Patel today to see if you are eligible to get your DC criminal records sealed. Call 202-930-3464 for a confidential evaluation.

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