What is an Expungement and How Do I Get One?

By Jedidiah McKeehan

I often get asked, “This job application is asking me if I have ever been charged with a crime. I had a charge expunged. Do I put down that I have never been charged?”  My answer is, “Yes.” Once an expungement has occurred, it is as if the arrest, dismissal, and/or conviction never occurred.

Expungement is the process by which a person’s criminal record is effectively erased. This can be an important tool for individuals who are convicted of a crime and are seeking to move on with their lives without the burden of a criminal record. The very existence of a criminal charge on your record, even if the charge was dismissed, can often jam up a job application.

Not all charges are eligible for expungement and the paperwork related to processing an expungement can be daunting. Let me put in a plug for Knox County though; they have an Expungement Screening time twice a week where people can see if they qualify for an expungement, and if so, the clerks and district attorney’s office will help them process the paperwork to complete the expungement process.

Overall, the expungement process can be a valuable tool for individuals seeking to move on with their lives after a criminal conviction or arrest. However, it is important to understand the eligibility requirements and procedures before trying to complete that process.

Does an expungement ever happen in non-criminal cases? Not really, however, one quirk of the law is that a couple can expunge a filed divorce if the parties reconcile before the divorce is finalized under Tennessee Code Annotated section 36-4-127.


Jedidiah McKeehan is an attorney practicing in Knox County and surrounding counties.  He works in many areas, including family law, criminal, and personal injury. Visit attorney-knoxville.com for more information about this legal issue and other legal issues.