Both expungement and record sealing are ways in which you can alter access to your criminal record. This legal remedy is helpful when applying for jobs, loans, getting an apartment, and other situations you may encounter in your future.
What Is the Difference?
Expungement refers to the physical destruction of your records, and you are treated as if the crime never happened. Record sealing means your file is placed in a confidential file and access is limited to certain law enforcement agencies or by a court order. Both these options are available in Vermont.
What Are the Requirements?
To have your record expunged or sealed you must meet certain requirements:
- You have not been convicted of any new crimes, and the crime you were convicted of is considered a qualifying crime.
- Ten years or more have passed since fulfillment of sentence and/or probation.
- If you were ordered to pay restitution, you have done so.
- The court finds your expungement is in the interest of justice.
- If you have been convicted of another crime, 20 years have passed since fulfillment sentence and/or probation.
- You have not been convicted of a felony offense since conviction for the crime you want expunged, and you have not been convicted of a misdemeanor in the past 15 years.
If you were arrested, but not charged with a crime, you may apply for expungement or sealing if your crime was a qualifying crime, no criminal charges were filed by the state, the statute of limitations has expired; a charge was filed, but it was dismissed; the charge was dismissed prior to trial with prejudice; or the charge was dismissed prior to trial without prejudice and the statute of limitations has expired. If you and the state have an agreement in writing allowing the expungement of your record, you may seek legal recourse to expunge or seal your record.
All misdemeanor offenses are qualifying crimes with these exceptions:
- Domestic assault
- Abuse or neglect of a vulnerable adult
- Reckless endangerment
- Unlawful restraint or confinement of a vulnerable adult
- Driving while intoxicated and DUI
- Violation of a protective order, or a protective order concerning contact with a child
Only two felony charges can be expunged. These are grand larceny or unlawful mischief where damages are over one thousand dollars.
Process for Filing
The general process for filing for an expungement or sealing a petition in Vermont is:
- Request your file from the court and review it. Fees for this will apply.
- Fill out the form with your case details and file it with the clerk. Filing fees apply.
- File a copy of your petition at court for the clerk to send to the prosecutor.
- The prosecutor will respond either agreeing or opposing your petition.
- The court will schedule a hearing.
- The victim, if applicable, will be notified and can make a statement.
- Petition is either granted or denied.
If the petition is denied, you cannot petition again for a minimum of five years.
Is Legal Representation Necessary?
You do not need a lawyer to petition the court for expungement or record sealing. But it is important to be aware of how complicated the court procedure can be. Any mistake in filing can result in your petition being denied, and filing fees will not be refunded.