Does Your Criminal Record Clear After 7 Years? (Do This Instead)

Background check repair icon.Written by Background Check Repair

Criminal Records | April 29, 2024

Man standing with his hands on his hips next to an old criminal conviction record looks at a calendar flipping pages asking does your criminal record clear after 7 years?

Some sources estimate that as many as one-third of U.S. adults have some sort of criminal record, which causes many thousands of people to ask, does your criminal record clear after 7 years?

The quick answer is that in most states, it does not, and concerned individuals are best served by seeking expungement or sealing of records.

However, the good news is that many background checks won’t show criminal records that are older than 7 years.

So, although the answer to the question, does your criminal record clear after 7 years, is technically no (because law enforcement and other justice department agencies can still see these records), for most jobs and employment background checks, crimes committed longer than 7 years ago won’t be listed.

However, anyone can be sure that their record is clear for a background check by doing a name based criminal records search first.

After checking your record, use the following guide to make sure that criminal records are erased completely.

When Does Your Criminal Record Get Cleared? (Does Your Criminal Record Clear after 7 Years?)

An individual’s criminal record encompasses their complete history of criminal encounters. Anyone who has wondered what information will appear on a criminal record knows that the criminal record contains more than a list of guilty verdicts. It is a combined federal and state file that documents all of an individual’s arrests, charges, and convictions, including those arrests and charges that did not lead to guilty verdicts.23

It’s understandable why so many people have asked “Does your criminal record clear after 7 years?” and why this idea has carried on through the years. This article looks at current state laws and stances regarding criminal record clearing and illuminates the Fair Credit Reporting Act42 7-year rule which is so often entangled with the idea of automatic record clearing. In most cases, an individual’s criminal record will not be cleared until they take the proper legal steps to seal or expunge a said record, but recent legislation in states across the U.S. is changing this process.

Does Your Criminal Record Clear After 7 Years?

For anyone who is still looking for a clear answer to “Does your criminal record clear after 7 years?” the most direct response to this query is that most of the time it does not. In the vast majority of cases, a person’s criminal record sticks with them indefinitely until the record is actively expunged or sealed by the person in question. Although almost all of the states in the U.S. have a process that allows individuals to petition for their arrest records, non-convictions, and sometimes even convictions to be expunged or sealed after the state-specified time has elapsed, most of these states do not have a process currently in place to streamline the process for automatic criminal record clearing. This means that an individual usually has to initiate and navigate the expungement/record sealing process themselves or with the help of an attorney, which is both complex and costly.23

There are a few exceptions touched on briefly here and looked at in more depth in later sections. Approximately twenty states now have some provision for the automatic clearing of arrests and/or non-convictions.20,29

A handful of other states (California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Michigan, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Utah) have passed legislation that automates record clearing/sealing/expungement for eligible misdemeanors after a period of seven years or less.29 Pennsylvania’s criteria are 10 years for most misdemeanors.

Many of these automated systems are not yet up and running, but can be expected to facilitate and expedite the record-clearing process when they are.

After 10 Years, Does Your Criminal Record Clear?

Ten years is another commonly held time frame that people believe will free them from their criminal history. In most states and situations, this is not the case. But, building on the previous section, perspectives on this are changing and several states are developing systems to automate parts of the record-clearing process. The states mentioned above have passed laws to clear certain misdemeanors automatically after 5-7 years.

Additionally, a few states (Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, and Michigan) have also passed laws that will automate the process of clearing specific, eligible felonies after a period of 10 years. Michigan was the first state to make this progressive move, and its system will go into effect in April 2023 (see Michigan House Bill No. 4980).43

When Does Automatic Expungement of Criminal Records Occur?

At this time, automatic expungement of criminal records rarely occurs, and the vast majority of states require individuals who are eligible for expungement to complete an application and navigate the proper legal pathways to seal or expunge their records. This process is a huge hassle that typically costs a considerable amount of time and money. These are some of the factors which likely contributed to 2020 the University of Michigan study44 findings that more than 90% of eligible individuals do not apply for expungement or sealing even though it is a necessary task for people attempting to overcome a rocky past.15

In response to this, a movement known as the Clean Slate Initiative (CSI)11 has been making strides across the United States since its founding in 2019, partnering with individual states to enact legislation that allows individuals with criminal records greater and easier access to expungement and record sealing. In essence, this movement is creating the opportunity for a second chance for millions of Americans.20

Screenshot of Congress Gov website page about the Clean Slate Act of 2021 with yellow arrows pointing to the Introduction in Senate.

Many laws about when a criminal record is cleared have been issued at the federal level. While this is good for federal crimes, states have their own specific laws regarding how long crimes show up on background checks.

A Congressional bill entitled “Clean Slate Act of 202145 was introduced to the Senate in April 2021, but it has not yet been passed. The state governments have seen a bit more movement, creating promising policy changes across the nation.

The next few sections explore how various states are approaching the “Clean Slate” policy. Take a look at the tables below for information on the states with automatic record-clearing policies in place or in progress.

States With “Clean Slate” Legislation for Both Non-Convictions and Convictions

The following table looks at the states with active “Clean Slate” legislation. Pennsylvania was the pioneer in automatic record clearing, enacting the first clean slate legislation of its kind in 2018, and Michigan’s law passed in 2020 is considered the most progressive to date.15 This is an ever-evolving area, so it’s important to stay up-to-date on the laws in each state.10

Note that many of the new laws have been recently passed, and the automated systems may not yet be up and running. Putting the laws into effect will take some time.

States With “Clean Slate” PoliciesArrests and


MisdemeanorFelonyLaw Effective DateNotes
California5Automatic sealing of non-conviction records after 1973.

Automatic sealing of arrests where diversion programs were successfully completed or where 1-3 years have elapsed with no further criminal proceedings.

Infractions and misdemeanors are eligible for automatic relief after the sentence has been completed and at least one year has passed since the judgment.Felonies not punishable by state prison incarceration may be eligible for automatic relief.Effective: August 1, 2022Arrest and conviction records are to be reviewed monthly for eligible cases.
To qualify, individuals must not be a registered sex offenders, have an active supervision record, or have pending criminal charges
Colorado12Automated sealing for arrests and charges not resulting in convictions.

Civil infractions are automatically sealed four years after final disposition.

Automated sealing of misdemeanors after 7 years.
Excludes violent crimes.
Automated sealing of eligible felonies after 10 years.
Exclusions: Class 1, 2, and 3 felonies are ineligible.
Passed: May 31, 2022
Effective: July 20252
Automatic sealing is available when the specified waiting period has passed without further convictions or pending criminal charges.
Conviction record sealing is available only after restitution has been paid and all legal responsibilities settled.
ConnecticutAutomatic erasure of not-guilty verdicts and dismissals after 13 months38Automatic erasure of classified or unclassified misdemeanor offenses (occurring on or after January 1, 2000) after 7 years.Automatic erasure of Class D, Class E, and unclassified felony offenses (with a prison term of five years or less) after 10 years.
Family violence crimes
Sexual offenses
Effective: January 1, 2023Automatic sealing is available when the specified waiting period has passed without further convictions or pending criminal charges.
Delaware9Automatic expungement of arrests, dismissals, and acquittals.Automated sealing of eligible misdemeanors after 5 years.Automated expungement of eligible felonies after 10 years.
Felony drug possession automatically expunged after 5 years.33
Excludes most violent crimes and fraud crimes.
Passed: November 8, 2021
Effective: August 1, 2024
Cases will be reviewed for automatic expungement on a monthly basis beginning August 2024.
Michigan*28Arrests and non-convictions are expunged after 60 days when charges are dismissed before trial.29Automated “set aside” of eligible misdemeanors after 7 years.
Exceptions include:
Serious misdemeanors (larceny, shoplifting, indecent exposure, negligent vehicular homicide).3
Automated “set aside of eligible non-assaultive felonies after 10 years.
Exceptions include:
Felony crimes with a sentence >10 years
Assaultive crimes
Crimes involving a minor or vulnerable adult
Human trafficking
Crimes resulting in injury, serious impairment, or death
Crimes of dishonesty (fraud)21
Passed: April 11, 2021
Effective: April 2023
Automatic “set-asides” are available when the specified waiting period has passed without further convictions or pending criminal charges.
A maximum of two felonies and four misdemeanors (with a sentence >93 days) can be automatically set aside.
No limit on the number of misdemeanors with a sentence <92 days
Oklahoma*Immediate automatic expungement for arrests and non-convictions.Automated record clearance for most misdemeanors after 5 years.
Violent crimes excepted.
Felony convictions are not currently eligible for automatic clearing.Passed: May 2,  2022
Effective:  2025
Eligible cases will be reviewed by the Oklahoma Bureau of Criminal Investigation monthly.
An individual is ineligible if criminal activity is ongoing or restitution has not been paid.
PennsylvaniaAutomatic sealing of pardoned convictions.

Automatic expungement of acquittals and non-convictions within 30 days of disposition.

Automatic sealing for second and third-degree misdemeanors and some first-degree misdemeanors after 10 years.
Summary convictions after 5 years.
Felony convictions are not currently eligible for automatic clearing.Passed: June 28, 2018
Effective: January 2020
Individuals must be free of arrests and criminal charges for a decade.
All restitution must be paid.
South DakotaAutomatic expungement is available upon successful completion of the diversion program.Automatic removal of misdemeanor and petty offense charges after 5 years conviction-free.Felony convictions are not currently eligible for automatic clearing.Passed: 2016
Amended: 2021
South Dakota’s automatic clearing legislation does not meet the Clean Slate Initiative criteria as it does not broadly include arrest records.10
Utah41Automatic expungement of cases dismissed with prejudice.Automatic expungement for misdemeanors by class:2
Class A drug possession – 7 years
Class B – 6 years
Class C – 5 years
Felony convictions are not currently eligible for automatic clearing.Passed: 2019
Effective: February 10, 2022
Individuals must be free of additional convictions for the specified period.

^Although “automatic relief” has been available in California since 2019, set-aside records were still accessible to CRAs and the public at large. As of August 2022, all set-aside records should be sealed from public view.

*Sealed or “set aside” records are usually still available to the courts and law enforcement and sometimes employers who can demonstrate the need for this information. The records are no longer publicly accessible.

States With “Clean Slate” Movements In Progress

Additional states are in the process of developing “Clean Slate” policies or have Clean Slate campaigns that the public could potentially see passed into laws within months or years.10

States With “Clean Slate” In ProgressRecent Progress of Note
Illinois8Active Clean Slate campaign pushing for legislative changes
A bill intended to create a Clean Slate Act was adjourned sine die in the house in January 2021
Louisiana7Recent Acts (Acts 70, 71, 78) increase the ease of petitioning for criminal record expungement, effective August 1, 2022
House Resolution 67 established the Clean Slate Study Group on June 2, 2022
New JerseyAutomatic expungement of arrests and non-convictions at the time of adjudication. Effective 2016
Under the current “Clean Slate” law, most convictions can be expunged by petition after a period of 10 years without further criminal charges
The state of New Jersey is working on an automated process but an effective date has not yet been released
New York13New York’s Clean Slate Act passed the Senate on June 1, 2022
The Act is currently waiting to pass NY Assembly
North Carolina18Passed the Second Chance Act on June 25, 2020, which expands eligibility for expungement
Automates expungement of non-convictions
Legislature currently exploring Clean Slate legislation, allowing for broader automatic record clearance
OregonLaunched a Clean Slate campaign in 2021
Texas14Active Clean Slate campaign pushing for new legislation to automate record nondisclosure
Virginia32Passed a Bill in 2021 to establish a system for sealing certain records (misdemeanor non-convictions, nine minor misdemeanors, and underage alcohol and marijuana possession deferred dismissals) after a period of 7 years24
Effective Date: October 1, 2025.

States With Automatic Clearing for Arrests and Non-Convictions Only

The tables above provide comprehensive information on the states which have and are in the process of enacting laws to automatically expunge criminal convictions. However, there are several additional states with policies to automatically clear arrests and/or non-convictions from criminal records.

States With Automatic Clearing For Non-Convictions OnlyArrests and Non-ConvictionsLaw Effective Date
KentuckyAutomatic expungement for cases disposed of after March 27, 2020, with acquittal or dismissal with prejudice7Effective: March 2020
MarylandAutomatic expungement of most non-conviction records 3 years after final disposition.Effective: October 1, 2021
MassachusettsAutomatic sealing of specific non-convictions (not guilty verdicts, no bill, or no probable cause) available at the dispositionEffective: October 2018
NebraskaAutomatic sealing of non-convictions is available immediately.
Automatic sealing of arrest records is available after 1 year from the arrest date if no charges are filed.25
Effective: 2016
Amended: 2018
New HampshireArrests and non-convictions disposed of on or after January 1, 2019, are automatically annulled.Effective: 2019
North CarolinaAutomatic expungement for non-convictions occurring after December 1, 2021Effective: December 1, 20217
South CarolinaSpecific non-convictions (acquittal, dismissal, nolle prosequi) in Magistrate or Municipal Court are eligible for automatic expungement.26

Additionally, the states of Illinois, New Mexico, Vermont, and New York have automatic record sealing in place for marijuana-related offenses.27

What Criminal Offenses Can Become Sealed Records After 10 Years?

Individuals who are able to seal or expunge their records are strongly encouraged to do so as soon as they are eligible. Although every state has different laws concerning expungement or sealing availability and process, there are some general consistencies across the states in which types of criminal offenses can be sealed.

Most states allow arrests and non-convictions to be sealed after a specified period of time. This sometimes excludes felony arrests and felony charges that were dismissed, and these may have to go through a more elaborate process.

Screenshot of NY Courts website page about Court Help with yellow arrows pointing to the sealed records after 10 years.

Though there are a few exceptions, almost all of the states allow misdemeanor offenses to be sealed after a period of seven to ten years (sometimes less) or after deferred adjudication is completed. In some states, there may be limits on how many misdemeanor offenses can be sealed within a given time or within a person’s lifetime. Also, there are often stipulations put upon misdemeanors that were violent or sexual in nature (domestic violence, assault, indecent exposure).

Some states even allow eligible felony offenses to be sealed after all sentence terms have been carried out. Some states limit an individual to one felony expungement/sealing per lifetime.30 As noted in the table above, a few states have even automated this process to occur after ten years have elapsed.

However, there are many notable exceptions and criminal offenses that are almost never eligible for sealing or expungement. These crimes are usually violent or sexual in nature. A few examples include:23

  • Abuse of a vulnerable adult or child
  • Sexual crimes
  • Child pornography
  • Murder

Most drug-related crimes can be sealed. Note that driving offenses that are sealed on a criminal record can still show up on a driving record.

What Is the FCRA 7-Year Rule: Criminal Records? (The 7-Year Rule: Background Check)

Individuals wondering “Does your criminal record clear after 7 years?” are often concerned about the impact of their criminal record upon rental or employment background checks. These concerns are well-founded, as individuals with criminal records often have trouble securing housing or well-compensated work. So what does the Fair Credit Reporting Act actually say about criminal record reporting on background checks?

Screenshot of Collateral Consequences Resource Center website page with an article about the Delaware governor singing of the automatic record-clearing law.

Some states, like Delaware, have laws about the mandatory expungement process, making it automatic after a specific period of time.

FCRA background checks encompass all background checks which are conducted on an individual for official purposes, such as employment, loans, and housing. The FCRA requires that specific steps are followed during the background check process, and it also has stipulations on what can be reported.

Specifically, the FCRA prohibits reporting any adverse information more than seven years old, excluding criminal convictions. Examples of “adverse information” include civil suits, debt collections, paid tax liens, and arrest records. It does not include employment verification, as this information is considered neutral and not adverse, and bankruptcy cases are limited to a 10-year look-back period.16 Note: The FCRA rule does not apply to cases where the background check is being used for these purposes:

  • Credit transactions greater than $150,000
  • Underwriting of life insurance greater than $150,000
  • Employment at an annual salary equal to or greater than $75,000

Though the restrictions do not impact reporting of criminal convictions, they do impact criminal record reporting in other ways: remember that criminal records also include records of arrest and non-convictions. Thus, no matter which state an individual lives in, arrest records and non-conviction records that did not result in a conviction, is not reported after 7 years.1

There has been some confusion about how the 7-year window is defined. In cases of arrest records, the seven-year window begins at the date of arrest. For non-convictions, the seven-year window begins on the date of the charge, not the date when charges were dismissed or the date of disposition.37

How Long Does a Felony Stay on Your Record for a Background Check?

For individuals with a felony offense on their record who are undergoing a rental background check or pre-employment evaluation, what shows up on their criminal record report can be cause for anxiety. A felony conviction is the most serious mark a person can have on their criminal record, and moving forward as a convicted felon can be challenging because there are no federal restrictions limiting felony reporting.

However, it is important to note that not all felonies carry the same weight or are viewed the same. For example, asking do felonies in criminal record disappear after 7 years depends on a number of factors.

Therefore, how long felonies remain on your record for a background check depends upon the following factors:

  • The type of felony
  • The reason for the background check
  • The state of residence
  • If the felony is expunged/sealed

Type of Felony: The type of felony on a person’s record is extremely important in determining how long it shows up on a background check. Violent and sexual crimes (e.g. murder, rape) are very extreme examples and will most likely appear on a background check for an individual’s lifetime. Less severe felonies, such as robbery, fraud, and many drug offenses can be expunged in many states, and may not be reported on some background checks after a period of time.

Reason for Background Check: The reason for the background check is also central to the discussion. Background checks for employment in healthcare and education settings are likely to look at felonies further in the past than many other jobs and can even request exceptions to extend felony reporting in states where it is restricted.39

State of Residence: Not only is the state of residence important because of sealing and expungement laws, but it is also important because many states have individual reporting statutes as well. The states of California, Kansas, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, New Mexico, New York, New Hampshire, and Washington have adopted the 7-year rule to apply to conviction reporting, as well.1

Note: There are usually restrictions on the 7-year conviction reporting standard in these states, such as in Kansas where the rule only applies for jobs paying less than $20,000 per annum.34

Whether Felony is Expunged/Sealed: There is some overlap here with previous sections, but less severe felonies are sometimes expugnable in various states. A felony that has been expunged or sealed should not appear on a background check (government background checks are often an exception).

Will a Felony Show Up on a Background Check After 10 Years?

Whether a felony shows up on a background check after ten years depends in large part upon who is conducting the background check. While the average employer or landlord may choose to only request a background looking back seven to ten years, certain industries (healthcare, childcare, government) are likely to look beyond ten years.

Additionally, states with restrictions on conviction reporting often have exceptions in place for jobs paying over a specified amount.

How Long Do Misdemeanors Stay on Your Record for a Background Check?

Misdemeanor convictions are less serious than felonies, yet in most states and situations, misdemeanors still remain on the criminal record indefinitely, unless an individual takes action to expunge them.4, 23 (See the “Automatic Expungement” section above for developments in this area). However, this does not mean that a misdemeanor will show up on every background check an individual undergoes during their lifetime.

In fact, the vast majority of background checks are limited in scope, and those which do investigate criminal history are often looking specifically for recent crimes, a pattern of criminal behavior, or severe criminal offenses such as violent felonies.

More and more employers are limiting investigative background checks to the most recent seven to ten years, as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission46 and state policies push for greater hiring inclusion and discretionary consideration of criminal history in hiring.6, 16 The background checks which are likely to see misdemeanors beyond this are those conducted for government purposes or for use in vulnerable populations as these background checks are often required to look back at least ten years.37

Does a Misdemeanor Show Up on a Background Check After 7 Years?

While it is possible for a misdemeanor to show up on a background check after seven years have elapsed, it is not likely. Some states are now automating the clearance of misdemeanors from criminal records after a period of five to seven years, so in these instances, a misdemeanor offense would certainly not show up on a background check.

Many other states allow for expungement or sealing of misdemeanors after a period of time (often around seven years), and any sealed or expunged record should not show up on a background check. Note: Government background checks are the exception here.

Additionally, many states have limited the look-back period for convictions to seven years (e.g. California, Kansas, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, New Mexico, New York, New Hampshire, Washington), and employers are increasingly moving towards more inclusivity and forgiveness in hiring.1

Does a Misdemeanor Show Up on a Background Check After 10 Years?

It is unlikely that a misdemeanor older than 10 years will show up on a background check for several reasons.39 Most employers are more concerned about severe crimes or violent crimes when conducting background checks. The vast majority of misdemeanors are not violent offenses and do not pose the same level of potential threat to the workplace.

Employers are often more concerned with a recent criminal history and increasingly, they are moving away from excluding individuals for crimes in the distant past.

What Are Some Misdemeanors That Prevent Employment?

In most situations, it is possible for individuals to obtain jobs with misdemeanor convictions on their records, but there are some potential exceptions.36 How misdemeanors impact an individual’s employability depends largely on four factors:

  • The recency of the offense
  • The quantity of offenses
  • The type of misdemeanor
  • The type of job and employer

The Recency of Offense: A misdemeanor crime committed five years ago is likely to have less bearing upon an employment application than a misdemeanor offense within the last few months. An individual’s ability to demonstrate change and growth depends a lot upon the amount of time that has passed.

Quantity of Offenses: While a single misdemeanor offense may be interpreted as a mistake or lapse in judgment, a pattern of repeated offenses is more likely to be interpreted as evidence of problematic behavior and personality.

Type of Misdemeanor: Not all misdemeanors are weighted the same. In some states, a person can be changed with an “aggravated” misdemeanor which is a step between misdemeanor and felony. Additionally, misdemeanors involving violence, drugs, and theft may impact employment more than a vandalism or trespassing charge.

Type of Job and Employer: Some companies and employers are more stringent than others when reviewing background checks for hire. In general, some employers are going to be less flexible than others. A quick internet search before applying can save individuals valuable time.

Screenshot of U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission website page with yellow arrow pointing to the Enforcement Guidance on the Consideration of Arrest and Conviction Records in Employment Decisions under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

From a more specific angle, certain misdemeanors can create difficulties when applying for certain types of jobs. For example, a misdemeanor DUI may preclude employment as a taxi driver, Uber or Lyft rideshare driver, bus driver, and so on. A misdemeanor conviction for theft or fraud may make it difficult to secure a job at a bank. Meanwhile, a misdemeanor drug conviction can make it tough to find work in the medical field.36

These are just a few examples, but applicants should always consider the type of misdemeanor in light of the type of job being sought.

How to Pass a Background Check With a Misdemeanor

Many individuals have wondered how to pass background investigations, especially with a criminal conviction on their record. For the majority of jobs a person might apply for, the employer is probably looking to identify individuals who have exhibited violent and deceptive behavior that could be problematic in the workplace. Many employers are increasingly lenient with misdemeanor crimes, particularly outside of the specific scenarios discussed in the previous section. There are four things that all individuals with a misdemeanor on their criminal record should do to ensure they pass a background check.

  1. Seek to expunge or seal the criminal record at the earliest possible date.

Though most jobs are unlikely to refuse employment on the grounds of a single misdemeanor offense, no criminal record is always preferable. Research expungement laws in the state of residence and contact an attorney if legal help is desired.36

  1. Apply to jobs that are less likely to be impacted by the specific offense (e.g. search for jobs without driving requirements if a DUI record is a concern).

Context is everything when applying for jobs, and having the right profile for the job is key. In other words, ensure that skill and education requirements are met and that there is nothing in the criminal history report that would preclude the type of work sought. Learn how to conduct your criminal background check to see the full criminal history report today.

  1. Disclose any past criminal offenses (particularly if they are likely to show on a background check) to the employer.

Understandably, employers are often more upset about applicants concealing their criminal pasts than they are about the offenses themselves. Honesty in the workplace is of utmost importance, and employers need to feel that they can trust their employees to communicate openly, even in delicate matters. Use this opportunity to explain the circumstances of the conviction and demonstrate personal growth.40

  1. Bring strong references to the table.

References are incredibly valuable in showcasing an applicant’s skills, work ethic, disposition, and general employability. Strong references which highlight an applicant’s work history can overcome many obstacles.36

It is often difficult for individuals to bounce back from a criminal conviction to become thriving members of the workforce and society at large. Although criminal records are not automatically cleared in most states, there are steps that people can take to increase their opportunities and chances of succeeding. The answer to the question “Does your criminal record clear after 7 years?” is not the end of the story, but a guidepost to how persons with criminal records can move forward with their lives.

If You Are Charged But Not Convicted, Does it Go on Your Record?

Not all arrests result in convictions. Furthermore, not every person who is charged with a crime is convicted. Hence, many people who ask “Does your criminal record clear after 7 years?” may be specifically wondering about criminal charges that did not result in convictions.

The simplest answer is that arrests and charges not leading to conviction are still part of criminal records.22 However, non-conviction charges are easier to expunge or seal than charges which resulted in a conviction, and fortunately, approximately a large minority of states have a provision in place to automatically clear non-conviction records. Furthermore, the FCRA’s 7-year reporting rule does apply to criminal charges not ending in conviction, meaning that charges are unlikely to appear on most background changes after the seven-year mark has passed.1

How Can I Get My Record Expunged for Free?

Unfortunately, “expungement” and “free” are two words that don’t go together easily. For individuals who live in one of the few states with laws for “automatic” expungement, it should be cost-free, but even in states that have “mandatory expungement,” the individual is usually required to pay a fee to the state.17

Expungement is generally a complex and lengthy process that requires detailed paperwork in addition to character evidence which may be requested in some cases.19 Working with an attorney is the best way to navigate the expungement process correctly, but it can often cost thousands of dollars. Individuals who choose not to use an attorney during the expungement process can still expect to pay several hundred dollars for the expungement fee (For example, in the Kentucky Court47 system, the total cost for a felony expungement is $300.)

Sealing records is often much less expensive than expungement, and may be a good option for individuals who are ineligible for expungement or live in a state where expungement is not available (see New York Courts).48

Frequently Asked Questions About Does Your Criminal Record Clear After 7 Years

Is it True Under the Federal FCRA, Conviction Records Are Only Reportable For 12 Years?

No, this is a myth. Under FCRA guidelines, non-conviction (arrests, civil suits, dismissed cases) records are only reportable for seven years. However, criminal conviction reporting is not restricted by the FCRA, and conviction records may be reported indefinitely, unless state law or jurisdiction prohibits it.1,16

Where Can I Get a Free 7-Year Background Check?

Individuals in need of a personal background check who don’t have the time or recesses to go the DIY route can request a free weeklong trial background check today. There are plenty of name-based checks available.31

What States Don’t Share Criminal Records?

Criminal records are commonly shared between states. Any crime committed within a state’s limits is typically recorded at the local and state levels and entered into that state’s criminal database. In many cases, the state databases are shared with national databases as well.35

Why Isn’t My Criminal Record Cleared After 10 Years?

Many people believe that criminal offenses will automatically fall off of their records after a specified period of time, the most common time frames being 5, 7, and 10 years. Unfortunately, the vast majority of states do not currently have legislation to automatically clear criminal records. There are a few states which do have some laws to this effect (e.g. Michigan, Utah), and other states are moving in this direction.29


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3Baldwin, L. (2022). Michigan Misdemeanor Crimes by Class and Sentences. Criminal Defense Lawyer. Retrieved September 15, 2022, from <>

4Branstad & Olson Law Office. (2020, July 10). How Long Does a Misdemeanor Stay on My Criminal Record? Branstad & Olson Law Office. Retrieved September 15, 2022, from <>

5California Legislative Information. (2021, July 16). Assembly Bill No. 145. California Legislative information. Retrieved September 15, 2022, from <>

6Casey, E. (2022). Will a Felony Show Up After Ten Years? Retrieved September 15, 2022, from <>

7CCRC Staff. (2021, February 17). After a Haul of Record Relief Reforms in 2020, More States Launch Clean Slate Campaigns. Collateral Consequences Resource Center. Retrieved September 15, 2022, from <>

8Clean Slate Illinois. (2022). Clean Slate: A Campaign to Automate Records Relief in Illinois. Clean Slate Illinois. Retrieved September 15, 2022, from <>

9The Clean Slate Initiative. (2021, November 9). Delaware Becomes Fifth State in the Nation to Offer Clean Slate, Reducing Barriers for People With Arrest and Conviction Records. Clean Slate. Retrieved September 15, 2022, from <>

10The Clean Slate Initiative. (2022). Clean Slate in the States. Clean Slate. Retrieved September 15, 2022, from <>

11The Clean Slate Initiative. (2022). Everyone Deserves a Second Chance. Clean Slate. Retrieved September 15, 2022, from <>

12The Clean Slate Initiative. (2022, May 31). Colorado Becomes the Seventh State to Enact Clean Slate Legislation. Clean Slate. Retrieved September 15, 2022, from <>

13The Clean Slate Initiative. (2022, June 1). New York Senate Passes Clean Slate Legislation. Clean Slate. Retrieved September 15, 2022, from <>

14Clean Slate Texas. (2022). Fighting For Texans’ Right to a Clean Slate. Clean Slate Texans. Retrieved September 15, 2022, from <>

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