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The Spodek Law Group understands how delicate high-profile cases can be, and has a strong track record of getting positive outcomes. Our lawyers service a clientele that is nationwide. With offices in both LA and NYC, and cases all across the country - Spodek Law Group is a top tier law firm.

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Expungement and Record Sealing for Federal Crimes – Attorney Advice

By Spodek Law Group | October 20, 2023
(Last Updated On: October 27, 2023)

Last Updated on: 27th October 2023, 06:54 pm


Expungement and Record Sealing for Federal Crimes – Attorney Advice

Having a federal criminal record can make life real tough. It can be hard to get a job, rent an apartment, or get approved for loans. So it makes sense that folks with federal convictions wanna get their records cleared. This article explains how expungement and record sealing works for federal crimes.

What’s the Difference Between Expungement and Record Sealing?

With expungement, your criminal record is destroyed or erased. It’s like it never happened. Record sealing keeps your criminal record separate from other records. The general public can’t access sealed records. Both help give you a clean slate and improve your chances in life after a conviction. But expungement is usually better cause the records gone for good.

Can Federal Criminal Records Be Expunged?

Straight up – there’s no law that lets you expunge federal convictions. Only state convictions can be expunged. Once you’re convicted of a federal crime, that record sticks with you for life. It’ll always show up on background checks. That sucks, I know.

But don’t lose hope! You can still seal federal criminal records so employers and landlords can’t see em. Keep reading…

Sealing Federal Criminal Records

Sealing federal records keeps em separate from other records and not viewable by the general public. It’s not as good as expungement, but it still gives you a clean slate in the eyes of employers.

To seal federal records, you gotta file a petition with the court where you were convicted. There’s usually a fee to file. You’ll have to give good reasons why the judge should seal your records. Like you’ve been rehabilitated and sealing will help you move on with life. 18 U.S.C. § 3607 allows federal first-time drug possession charges to be sealed for defendants under 21.

If the judge agrees your records should be sealed, they’ll issue a court order preventing the public from accessing your criminal case file. Background checks won’t show the sealed conviction. But government agencies like law enforcement can still see sealed records.

Qualifying for Federal Record Sealing

There’s no law that says exactly who qualifies for federal record sealing. It’s up to the judge. But here’s some factors that help:

  • Only one federal conviction
  • Non-violent offense
  • No prior criminal record
  • Years passed since conviction
  • Completed all probation/parole
  • Proof of rehabilitation

The more time between your conviction and sealing petition, the better. At least 5 years is recommended. Show how you’ve turned your life around through work, education, community service, sobriety, etc. That goes a long way.

How to Seal Federal Convictions

Sealing federal records takes some work. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Get your federal case records from PACER. Review for accuracy.
  2. Draft a sealing petition explaining why your record should be sealed.
  3. File the petition with the federal court that convicted you. Pay the fee.
  4. Serve the petition on the U.S. Attorney’s office.
  5. The U.S. Attorney may object to the petition.
  6. There may be a court hearing where you explain why sealing is needed.
  7. If approved, the court enters a sealing order.

It’s smart to have a lawyer help draft the strongest petition possible. Procedures vary by federal district, so a lawyer knows how each court handles sealing petitions.

What About Expunging Federal Arrests Without Conviction?

If you got arrested but not convicted of a federal charge, your arrest record can potentially be expunged. The process is called “expungement of an arrest record” or “expungement of nonconviction records.”

This erases the arrest record like it never happened. Very helpful for employment and other opportunities. 28 U.S.C § 534 allows federal nonconviction expungement in certain cases, like if charges got dismissed.

You’ll have to file a petition in federal court explaining why the arrest is hurting your earning potential or causing other hardship. If approved, the court orders federal agencies to destroy nonconviction records. But local arrest records may still need expunging separately.

Pardons for Federal Crimes

One more way to clear federal records is getting a presidential pardon. This forgives your crime without removing records. Pardons show you’ve been forgiven and help restore rights.

Pardons don’t expunge or seal records. But they look good to employers that background checks still show the conviction. Pardons are hard to get – you have to apply through the Office of the Pardon Attorney. Only a few are granted each year.

Consult an Attorney about Clearing Federal Records

Trying to clear a federal record yourself is tough without an attorney. Each federal district has different procedures. And prosecutors often fight sealing petitions. A knowledgeable lawyer handles the process smoothly.

Clearing federal convictions and arrests can really help people move forward in life. Expungement and record sealing laws keep getting better. Don’t lose hope if you have a federal record – talk to a lawyer to explore options.

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