An arrest or conviction for a crime in the state of Tennessee doesn’t always result in a record that follows you through life. Under some circumstances, Tennessee courts will expunge an arrest or conviction from your record.

Free Record Expungement in Tennessee

The eligible circumstances that qualify for free expungement in Tennessee include the following:

  • The court dismissed all charges against you.
  • The grand jury returns a “no true bill”, which means they didn’t find enough evidence to formally charge you.
  • After your arrest, there were no charges against you.
  • Your trial resulted in a not guilty verdict.
  • The prosecutor decides not to pursue your case.

I Qualify, Now What?

Just because your circumstance qualifies for a record expungement, it won’t automatically happen. You’ll have to complete a set of steps to set the expungement process in motion, starting with asking for it. The following steps may differ slightly, depending upon the court, but you’ll get the idea:

  • Asking for the expungement means filing for it in the court where the charge originated.
  • Provide information about the case, such as docket number. It’s probably best to request a copy of your record from the court clerk before you start the process.
  • Did the court make your case “Dismissed” or “Nollied”? If so, here are your next steps,:
    • You must file the request in the court where your case originated. If there were multiple charges, you may need to complete a separate document for each. (Contact the court clerk to get this answer.)
    • When you file your paperwork, you should indicate the charges that qualify for expungement.
    • You can avoid court when filing for expungement because you file the documents and other needed information with the court clerk.
    • With your paperwork leave a self-addressed, stamped envelope for each charge. After the expungements are complete, the court clerk will use the envelopes to send your documentation.
    • This will include a certified copy of the order(s) expunging your record, as well as one of the charging documents. But this will only happen if you leave enough envelopes and request the certified copies. (NOTE: You should absolutely ask for certified copies.)
    •  The judge will be sent your paperwork, and it will be sent to any agency needing to note and record the expungement.

Other Circumstance Expungements 

  • Often the opportunity to expunge your record can look slightly different. Expunging a record marked “dismissed with costs” or “retired” requires extra steps:
    • A charge marked “dismissed with costs” can still qualify for expungement, but it won’t be free. Court costs linger and most often account for the balance to pay. When you pay the debt, the court can expunge your record.
    • The charge was “retired”. When this happens, it reflects that the case has been inactive for a long time. In retired cases, you must have a court change its status to dismissed before starting the expungement process.

Expungement of a Conviction in Tennessee

All the above is great information for expunging a simple arrest or case that didn’t result in a conviction from your record. However, many people have a criminal record that can make life difficult. Recently, Tennessee has moved to improve its recidivism rate by making it easier to have non-violent and petty crimes expunged from your record.

Learn if your record qualifies for expungement using a tool developed in partnership between the Legal Aid Society and Georgetown University Law Center. The Tennessee Expungement Eligibility Assessment can be found here.

You may benefit from legal consultation, even though having your record expunged has become easier and less expensive in recent years. The lawyers with McKeehan Law Group are here to listen and advise. Contact us today online or by calling (865)294-8008.