Using an attorney is not required by any court. Expungement of a criminal record is a criminal proceeding. The Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution, applied to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment, grants the right of self-representation in all criminal matters.
However, the process of expunging a record, which varies by state, can be complex and confusing. In some states, it is just a matter of filing the required paperwork. In other states, it requires filing paperwork, collecting evidence, and arguing for expungement in front of a judge and against the arguments of a district attorney. So while you do not have to use an attorney, it may be wise to do so in some cases— especially if you have more than one conviction.
If you wish to do it without an attorney, start by visiting your county’s law library. The librarian can provide you with reference books and, possibly, sample motions and forms. Be aware that the word expungement has different meanings in different states. What is called expungement in California may be called record sealing, vacating, or setting aside a judgment in your state. If the court cannot provide the necessary paperwork, try calling your county’s public defender or legal aid society. If that does not work, try calling your county’s bar association and ask them if any lawyers do pro bono (free) expungement service.
If you have convictions in more than one state, make sure you research the expungement law of the other state or states prior to proceeding; filing in the wrong order may cost you eligibility in one of the states.
Only attorneys are allowed to charge for legal advice, so be very cautious with dealing with any non-attorney who charges for assistance, especially over the internet. See our listed of recommend attorneys on the Choosing An Attorney page.
Whats on your record?
The first step to removing your criminal record is to find out what, if anything, is showing up on your criminal background. If you are unsure of what exactly is holding you back from jobs or any of lives other opportunities we highly recommend visiting our partner, BackgroundChecks.com, where you can get a full national criminal history background check for a super low price.