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When can the record of a criminal charge be expunged from a person's record?

We receive a lot of inquiries about expungement of criminal charges from a person's record. Iowa law generally does not provide a method for expungement of criminal charges except in a few circumstances.

First, a criminal charge can be expunged where a person receives a deferred judgment after a guilty plea or after being found guilty at trial. Iowa Code Section 907.3 sets out the rules and requirements for a grant of a deferred judgment, but in general, a court places a person on probation and so long as the person successfully completes probation, the criminal charge will be removed from that person's record.

Second, there are certain simple misdemeanor charges that can be expunged without the need for the court to grant a deferred judgment. Public Intoxication and Possession of Alcohol under the Legal Age are two simple misdemeanor charges that can be expunged. In general, a conviction for these two charges can be expunged two years after conviction so long as that person has not been convicted of any new crimes, other than convictions for most simple misdemeanor traffic violations. Expungement of Public Intoxication also extends to any convictions for local ordinances that arose from the same incident.

Third, charges that were dismissed or resulted in not-guilty verdicts (acquittals) at trial can be expunged in certain circumstances. Dismissed charges or acquittals can only be expunged if every charge listed under a particular case number was dismissed or resulted in an acquittal. This is important to consider because people are often charged with multiple crimes under the same case number. For example, if a person is charged with burglary and theft and these charges are listed as separate counts in the same case, both charges must be dismissed or result in an acquittal in order for the charges to be expunged from a person's record. On the other hand, if a plea agreement is reached where the person pleads guilty to the theft charge in exchange for dismissal of the burglary charge, the dismissed burglary charge cannot be expunged because every charge within the same case number did not result in a dismissal or an acquittal.

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