In the cases of individuals over the age of eighteen, arrests and convictions are normally not automatically expunged or sealed after a number of years. Written application must be filed in court and according to the rules for expungement. This is not the case for juvenile records. Once an adjudication begins, records are automatically sealed a majority of the time.
Tennessee Juvenile Expungement
Juvenile records are most often sealed or expunged once an individual is of seventeen or eighteen years of age. Sealing these records means they are hidden from the public and cannot be accessed. This allows the offender to enter into adult life with no visible record from past delinquent acts prior to being the age of eighteen. If an offense is committed after the age of eighteen, juvenile expungement is no longer considered. Under juvenile court, records are most often automatically sealed for minors.
Expungement petitions can be denied for various reasons and for many factors. These include the conviction of a sexual offense, pending arrest or arrests, existing additional convictions, court records indicating an open case, registration as a sex offender, previous expungement existence, and disallowing the correct amount of time period before applying. An individual must wait a specific amount of time before a petition can be submitted, which also includes completion of probation, payment of fines, and confinement.
When a record is sealed in the state of Tennessee it does not mean that the record has been destroyed, rather it means that a record has been hidden. Expunging a record means destroying the record figuratively. So if another crime has been committed, expunged or sealed records may be used as priors, which can advance the conviction significantly in some cases.
Once a record is expunged a person can legally state that the arrest, charge, or accusation never took place. Instead of physically destroying the records, the record never existed to the law. However the federal government has the right to not honor an expungement if an individual runs for public office or if an individual applies for professional licensing.
Violent felonies are not allowed to be expunged or sealed under the law. Much of the time most records are able to be expunged as first offenses of the crime. To apply for expungement, certain criteria must first be met. These include fulfilling the minimum time length after the completion of a conviction or an arrest, 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 recommend to consult a criminal defense attorney prior to applying for petitioning. Even as the laws of Tennessee state which crimes may be sealed or expunged, there are always exceptions of which are eligible and which are not. An attorney will be able to advise to which is best for each case: sealing or expungement. See also:
Tennessee Misdemeanor External link (opens in new window)
Tennessee Felony External link (opens in new window)
Tennessee Gun Laws External link (opens in new window)