Possible to Get Federal Criminal Record Expunged?

We have written extensively and explained on video the procedures and practices in California courts to get an expungement of your state criminal record.  In sum, most crimes are eligible for expungement in California by filing a petition pursuant to Penal Code section 1203.4.  The process is relatively simple and is always worth attempting.


But I often get asked what happens if you have a federal record?  That is, whether a person can expunge their federal conviction.  The rules in federal courts are dramatically different in regards to expungement and the short answer to the question is that it depends but it is unlikely you will be granted an expungement of your federal criminal record.

To get a federal expungement you can always start with seeking a presidential pardon.  While technically not an expungement because it does not dismiss the conviction a pardon is certainly powerful and worth pursuing.  Pardons, however, are not very easy to get and the process is often motivated more by politics than justice.  However, if you do get a presidential pardon you will be relieved from all penalties associated with the conviction.  However, the conviction will still show on your background report and you will still have to answer yes if asked by an employer or governmental agency whether you have been convicted of a crime.  

A regular "expungement" like you see frequently in state courts is somewhat of a rarity in federal court.  Minor federal drug offenses can be expunged under 18 U.S.C. 3607(c) or if you were placed in a drug diversion program under 21 U.S.C. 844.  

Another way of having your record cleared is to seek dismissal of the case.  This is not technically an expungement because with a dismissal you are attacking the validity of the conviction.  There are a variety of ways to do this but the most common concerns errors by the convicting court of by any of the attorney's that handled the case.

Because the rules are complicated you should always ask around for an experienced expungement attorney.