Arrests and convictions are typically not automatically expunged or sealed after a number of years in the case of individuals over the age of eighteen. A written application for expungement must be filed in court and in accordance with the rules. This does not apply to juvenile records. The majority of the time, once an adjudication begins, records are automatically sealed.
Tennessee Juvenile Discharge
Juvenile records are typically sealed or expunged once an individual reaches the age of seventeen or eighteen. Sealing these records means they are no longer accessible to the public. This allows the offender to enter adulthood with no visible record of previous delinquent acts committed before the age of eighteen. Juvenile expungement is no longer considered if an offense is committed after the age of eighteen. Minors’ records are frequently automatically sealed in juvenile court.
Denial of Expungement
Expungement petitions can be denied for a variety of reasons and based on a variety of factors. These include a sexual offense conviction, pending arrest or arrests, existing additional convictions, court records indicating an open case, registration as a sex offender, previous expungement existence, and denying the correct amount of time before applying. Before submitting a petition, an individual must wait a certain amount of time, which includes the completion of probation, payment of fines, and confinement.
Unsealing of a Record
When a record is sealed in Tennessee, it does not mean that it has been destroyed; rather, it means that it has been hidden. Expunging a record entails figuratively destroying the record. If another crime has been committed, expunged or sealed records may be used as priors, which can significantly advance the conviction in some cases.
Conditions for Expungement
After a record has been expunged, a person can legally claim that the arrest, charge, or accusation never occurred. Instead of physically destroying the records, the law treated them as if they never existed. However, if an individual runs for public office or applies for professional licensing, the federal government has the authority to refuse to honor an expungement.
Violent felonies cannot be expunged or sealed under the law. Most records can be expunged as first offenses of the crime most of the time. Certain criteria must be met before applying for expungement. These include no further arrests or convictions—with the exception of minor traffic violations—dismissed criminal proceedings, acquittal of a case, being found “not guilty” in a case, discharge without conviction, no re-filing of criminal charges, release before filing of formal charges, or expungement of juvenile records.
Because expungement is a difficult process, it is recommended that you consult with a criminal defense attorney before filing your petition. Even though Tennessee law specifies which crimes are eligible for sealing or expungement, there are always exceptions to which are and are not. An attorney will be able to advise you on which option is best for your specific situation: sealing or expungement.