“The law says that a discharge from the courts leaves one’s character clean.” – Socrates
Unfortunately, this piece of ancient wisdom does not always hold true today. If you have been arrested or charged with an offense that you were not convicted of, many people will assume you were guilty, including potential employers.
Luckily for those charged or arrested in Washington, DC, the district has a relatively generous law for expunging or “sealing” cases that did not result in conviction. The governing statute, which you can find online, is D.C. Code 16-802.
The easiest way to seal your record is on “grounds of actual innocence.” To seal your record this way, you must convince the court that you were actually innocent of the crime charged. For example, if you were found not guilty at trial, the transcript of proceedings may be sufficient to show your actual innocence. If the case never went to trial, an sworn affidavits of testimony may also suffice.
If you are not able to demonstrate actual innocence, you may still be able to seal your record if the offense charged was a misdemeanor (rather than a felony). However, you will have to wait either two or three years to file your motion to seal, depending on the offense charged.
Please take note – sealing a criminal record in Superior Court is time consuming. It can take many months to get your motion through, even if your case is solid. So, if you think you may be applying for a new job at some point, do not wait until a few weeks before to seal your record.
This post should provide a good general overview of the district’s law on sealing arrest records, but there are details that come up in certain cases that could not be covered here. If you would like to discuss sealing your record with an attorney, please contact us.