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Expungement is a legal process by which the arrest or conviction of a person may be erased from his/her criminal record.  In an expungement proceeding a first time offender of a prior criminal conviction seeks that the records of that earlier process be sealed, thereby making the records unavailable through the state or Federal repositories.  When an expungement is granted by the judge, the person whose record is expunged may, for most purposes, treat the event as if it never occurred.  Therefore after the expungement process is complete, an arrest or a criminal conviction ordinarily does not need to be disclosed by the person who was arrested or convicted.  Expungement is a civil action in the which the subject is the petitioner or plaintiff asking a court to declare that the records be expunged.

However, an expunged arrest or conviction is not necessarily completely erased, in the literal sense of the word.  An expungement will ordinarily be an accessible part of a person’s criminal record, viewable by certain government agencies, including law enforcement and the criminal courts.  In some legal proceedings, such as during sentencing for any crimes committed after an expungement, or in immigration / deportation proceedings, an expunged conviction may still be considered as proof of a prior conviction.

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