In Tennessee, expungement is called "Expunction."
What is Expunction?
Expunction deletes your criminal record and restores you to the status you had before the offense. The state removes the record from all official sources. Employers, landlords, and banks will not see an expunged record.
Tennessee law allows courts to expunge juvenile records, but expunction in Tennessee is limited. The type and date of the offense determines whether you can expunge a record.
Who is Eligible for Expunction?
You are eligible to have charges expunged that were dismissed or "no true billed," the district attorney declined to prosecute, or you were tried and found not guilty. These expunctions are free.
If you received pretrial or judicial diversion, you may be eligible for expunction. There are administrative fees to expunge those charges.
You are eligible to expunge a conviction if you have only one nonviolent offense and you have no later arrests or violations. You may also be eligible to expunge convictions if you have two convictions that arose out of the same incident. The fee for expungement of convictions is $100 as of July 2019. Driving under the influence (DUI) cannot be expunged.
Tennessee has two "classes" of expungement based on the date of conviction:
- Class 1: If the conviction was on or before November 1, 1989, you are eligible to have a conviction expunged if you have no other expungements, you were sentenced to three years or less of a determinate sentence, or you served less than three years of an indeterminate sentence. You must wait five years after the completion of your sentence.
- Class 2: If the conviction was after November 1, 1989, you are eligible to have a conviction expunged if you have no other expungements, you have no other convictions under state or federal law, you have completed your sentence, and you have waited five years. The conviction to be expunged must be either a Class E felony on the list of included offenses or a misdemeanor that is not on the list of excluded offenses.
For lists of both included and excluded offenses, see Nashville's expungement packet on the The Davidson County Courts website here: Expungement Packet - General Sessions.
If you are uncertain about your eligibility for expungement, consider consulting a lawyer.
What Effect Does Expunction Have?
Once a Tennessee court grants an expunction, the court orders all state agencies to expunge their records including the arresting agency, the county jail, the Tennessee Department of Correction (TDOC), and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI). The TDOC removes the record from the Tennessee Felony Offender Lookup (FOIL) and the Tennessee Offender Management Information System (TOMIS). The TBI removes the record from your criminal history and from your paper or electronic fingerprint card. The TBI also sends the expunction order to the FBI to remove the record at federal agencies.
Your conviction, dismissal, or acquittal is erased. In most cases, you can legally deny being arrested or convicted. Tennessee destroys the expunged record, so it is important to keep a copy of the court order to prove the record was expunged.
If the charge or conviction shows up in a criminal background check done by a private company, you must contact them directly to erase the record.
When Can I Apply for Expunction?
You can apply for expunction of a conviction only after you have completed your sentence. The waiting period starts from whatever date is most recent such as the date of conviction, completion of sentence, completion of probation or parole, or final payment of restitution.
Here is when you can apply for expunction:
- If your conviction is a class 1 (on or before November 1, 1989), you can apply five years after you completed your sentence.
- If your conviction is a class 2 (after November 1, 1989), you can apply five years after you completed your sentence.
How Do I Apply for Expunction?
Here are the four steps to apply for expunction:
- Check if your record is eligible for expunction. To view eligibility, visit the Tennessee State Government website here: Tennessee Expunction.
- Contact or visit the District Attorney's office in the judicial district where you were charged or convicted. You must start the expunction process with the DA. Most District Attorney offices have prepared packets with information to help you file for expunction with the court. To view the expunction checklist, visit the Tennessee District Attorney General Conference website here: Expunction Checklist.
- Visit the court where you were charged or convicted.
- File your petition for expunction with the clerk of the court. If you did not receive a petition form from the District Attorney’s office, the clerk will provide one,
- Pay the fee, if required. Expunction petitions for dismissals including no true bill, nolle prosequi, etc. and acquittals such as not-guilty verdicts are free. A petition to expunge a conviction is $100. You must pay the clerk with cash, credit card, money order, or certified check.
If you cannot pay the fee, you have the right to have the fee waived. To get a fee waiver, file a petition to "proceed as an indigent person” with the clerk. The judge will decide if you qualify for a fee waiver
More Information About Expunction
For frequently asked questions about expunction in Tennessee, visit the Tennessee State Government website here: Expungement FAQ.