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Typically, the complete deletion of public records is impossible in the District of Columbia. Public records can only be partially deleted through record disposition or sealing, which is by a provision of the state law, record retention schedule, or through a petition to the Records Disposition Committee. Note that if a petition to the Records Disposition Committee is approved, it does not become effective until 45 days after its publication in the District of Columbia Register.
In the District of Columbia, certain court records, criminal records, and arrest records may be deleted. Most of these records, especially criminal records have waiting periods where the record subject must stay crime-free in order to qualify for their records to be sealed. The waiting period is usually a specific time frame from the date the case is terminated. Other records like birth records that are automatically sealed by the government may later become public after some time. For instance, birth records are sealed for 125 years but they become public after this period.
Persons eligible to seal their records may petition the Superior Court with a motion to seal. These persons must provide legitimate reasons why their records should be deleted. If the motion is granted, the records become sealed and inaccessible to the general public at the state and county repositories. Individuals usually petition to have their records deleted for any of these reasons:
- To hide their sensitive personal information, such as their social security numbers, financial information, etc.
- To apply for certain employment opportunities that may be hindered by a criminal record
- The waiting period of the record has elapsed, implying that they qualify for expungement and they wish to have a fresh start
- To protect juveniles listed in the record and their personal information
- To protect a public record that reveals private details that may negatively affect their image, such as their medical records
What is a Public Record in the District of Columbia?
The District of Columbia defines public records as all electronic or paper records generated, maintained, or issued by public bodies. Public records are stored in different forms, namely books, papers, recordings, maps, tapes, photographs, cards, microfilms, computer disks, or other documentary materials. Some public records document transactions of public business by or with any officer or employee of the District under the law.
The District of Columbia Freedom of Information Act (D.C. FOIA) gives state residents the right of access to public records, making the records accessible to the general public for inspection and copying at the county and state repositories. Public records may also be available through Non-FCRA Compliant third-party background check companies. Record custodians are authorized to request fees as a prerequisite for obtaining records, although the fees may be waived for a good cause. Â The fees are usually for document search, duplication, and reviewing of records requested for commercial use. Some public records include court records, arrest records, criminal records, inmate records, etc.
Authorizing state residents to access public records enables them to monitor and measure the performance of the government and guarantee the governmentâ€™s transparency and accountability to the state residents. Also, with access to public records, background checks may be conducted for employment and law enforcement purposes. However, certain records are exempted from the stateâ€™s FOIA law. Examples of such records include:
- Medical records
- Vital records
- Investigation records compiled for law enforcement purposes
- Trade secrets and confidential financial or commercial information, including public records covered by attorney-client or work product privileges
- Arson investigations
- Test questions and answers to be used in future employment, license, or academic examinations, that have not been previously used administered
- Security plans
Does the District of Columbia Allow Expungement?
Yes, the District of Columbia allows the expungement of certain public records that qualify for expungement. Asides from expungement, some records can be set aside or disposed, depending on the circumstances surrounding the crime on record. For instance, the District of Columbia Youth Rehabilitation Act authorizes the court to set aside the conviction of an individual who was below the age of 25 at the time they were charged with an offense, provided the individual has successfully served their sentence. Although setting aside a record has the same result as sealing/expunging the record, it only applies to certain convictions.
How Do I Expunge My Criminal Record in the District of Columbia?
The conditions for expunging a record is defined by D.C. Code Â§ 22-1844(a), which authorizes expungement for a person who was:
- Arrested, prosecuted, or convicted of an eligible offense as a victim of trafficking
- Arrested but not prosecuted, or whose prosecution was cut short without conviction, for an eligible or ineligible offense
D.C. Code Â§ 22-1831(5A) defines eligible offenses as any crime apart from those involving serious violence or sexual conduct outlined in Â§ 22-1831(5B)).
Persons eligible for expungement may apply by motion to the Superior Court in the District of Columbia in writing stating:
- The arrests, prosecutions, and convictions for which they seek relief
- The basis for their eligibility for relief and justifiable facts in support of their claim
The movant (person filing the motion) is required to submit the motion to the Superior Court accompanied by any appropriate affidavits, exhibits, and supporting documents. The motion must also be served to the prosecutor. A movant may file a motion irrespective of whether any other person, such as the person who made them a victim of the crime in question, has been arrested, prosecuted, or convicted for an offense. A person eligible to expunge may only file the motion when:
- All criminal proceedings against the party regarding the offenses for which relief is sought have been completed; and
- The movant has completed any sentence of imprisonment, probation, commitment, parole, or supervised release regarding the offenses that are the subject of the motion.
Upon the request of the person filing or the prosecutor, the D.C. Superior Court may place any record or part of a proceeding pertaining to a motion filed under seal, while the motion is pending. The Court may also dismiss or deny any motion where the crime for which relief is sought is considered ineligible or not entitled to relief. On the other hand, if the motion carries a curable deficiency, the Court will grant ample time to cure the deficiency and refile the motion.
If the Court does not dismiss or deny the motion after the first review, the Court will order the prosecutor to file a response to the motion. The prosecutor has 90 days after the Court's order for a response, to file a response stating whether they support or oppose the motion to expunge. Within this period, based on the response of the prosecutor, the Court may hold a hearing, particularly if the prosecutor opposes a motion filed by the movant.
After the Courtâ€™s review, the court may grant the motion filed in line with D.C. Â§ 22-1844(a), if:
- The movant was convicted of an eligible offense
- The movant is a victim of trafficking
- The movantâ€™s conduct resulting in the conviction was a direct result of the movant having been a victim of trafficking.
The Court may grant the motion filed in line with D.C. Â§ 22-1844(b) if the movant can establish with clear and convincing proof that:
- The movant was arrested but not prosecuted, or the prosecution was cut short without conviction, for an eligible offense or an ineligible offense;
- The movant is a victim of trafficking; and
- The movantâ€™s conduct resulting in the arrest or prosecution was a direct result of the movant having been a victim of trafficking.
The Court will arrive at a rebuttable presumption that a movant is a victim of trafficking if the movant provides with the motion, a copy of an official record from a federal, state, tribal, or local proceeding showing that the movant was a victim of trafficking. This should be accompanied by a Certification Letter or Eligibility Letter from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Note that the Superior Court may grant a motion for expungement based solely on an affidavit or sworn testimony of the movant. After the review, the Court may release an order dismissing, granting, or denying a motion filed to expunge a record. If the Court grants the motion, it shall enter an order to expunge the records at all the entities where the record is held. On the other hand, if the Court denies the motion, it will state the reasons for the denial in writing.
Will My Expungement Record Show up on a Background Check in the District of Columbia
After a record has been expunged in the District of Columbia, it is deleted from public view and will not show up on a background check at the county and state repositories, as well as on a Non-FCRA Compliant background check.
How to Seal a Record in the District of Columbia
In the District of Columbia, the Criminal Record Sealing Act of 2006 defines the eligibility requirements and procedure for criminal records. Pursuant to D.C. Code Â§ 16-802, a person may file for the sealing of criminal records on the grounds of actual innocence. A motion to seal may also be filed to seal criminal records in other cases specified by D.C. Code Â§ 16-803.
The Superior Court only grants a motion to seal if it is in the interests of justice to do so. The Court mandatorily considers the following:
- The movantâ€™s interests in sealing the public records of their arrest, related court proceedings, or conviction
- The communityâ€™s interest in facilitating the movantâ€™s rehabilitation and enabling the movantâ€™s employability
- The communityâ€™s interest in maintaining access to the records and the current or prospective employersâ€™ interest in making well informed recruiting or job assignment decisions and their interest in fostering public safety
The Superior Court may also at its discretion, consider:
- The nature of the offense and events surrounding it
- The amount of time that has passed since the arrests or convictions that are the subject of the motion
- Any statement made by the victim of the offense
- The role the petitioner played in the offense or alleged offense, and if the case was terminated without conviction, the gravity of the evidence against the person;
- The number of arrests or convictions that the movant is looking to seal
- Whether the movant has formerly had their record Â or had obtained a similar relief, or any other provision of the law except by reason of actual innocence
- The history and characteristics of the movant, including the movantâ€™s:
- Prior and subsequent conduct
- Physical and mental condition
- Efforts at rehabilitation
- Employment history
- History relating to drug or alcohol abuse or dependence and treatment opportunities
- Criminal history
After establishing eligibility to seal a record, submit your request to the District of Columbia Criminal Information Office located in room 4001 at:
500 Indiana Avenue NW,
Washington, DC 20001
A movant is required to make a copy of the motion aside from the original document.
The Court will review the filed motion and may dismiss the movantâ€™s petition for sealing without a hearing if it can clearly be deduced from the face of the motion, that the movant is not entitled or eligible for relief. On the other hand, if the court does not dismiss the filed motion, the prosecutor will have 60-90 days to respond to the filed motion. After this, the court may grant, deny, or order a hearing within 30 days. During this hearing, witnesses and other forms of evidence may be presented.
Who Can See My Sealed Record in the District of Columbia?
Sealed records are concealed from public view but may still be accessed by certain authorized entities to be used for any legal purpose or by court order for a good cause shown. These entities include prosecutors, law enforcement agencies, courts, public employers, licensing agencies, schools, and child care facilities.
How to Delete Bankruptcy Records in the District of Columbia
Bankruptcies are regulated by the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), 6 U.S.C. Â§ 605. Bankruptcy records cannot be deleted from credit reports. The length of time bankruptcy will stay on a record is determined by the type of bankruptcy that was filed. For instance, Â a Chapter 7 and 11 bankruptcy record will remain on a credit report for a maximum of ten years, while a Chapter 12 and 13 bankruptcy record will be on a credit report for a maximum of 7 years. However, an individual can file a motion for reconsideration of the order or a notice of appeal at the United States District Court if any issues are discovered in a bankruptcy record.
For more information on reestablishing credit and addressing credit problems, contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Bureau of Consumer Protection, Education Division, Washington, D.C. 20580 at (202) 326-2222. The credit bureau(s) reporting the information may also be directly contacted. Examples of these are TransUnion Consumer Relations, Equifax Credit Information Services, and Experian National Consumer Assistance Center.
What are the District of Columbia Consumer Protection Laws?
The District of Columbia Consumer Protection Laws known as the Consumer Protection Procedures Act (CPPA) is codified into D.C. Official Code Â§Â§ 28-3901 to 28-3913. It focuses on protecting the consumer rights of state residents. The law also shields consumers from fraudulent and deceptive business practices that may lead to a breach of private information and unnecessary financial losses. The Office of the Attorney General enforces the CPPA and it brings civil actions in the D.C. Superior Court to put an end to illegal trade practices and recover restitution for consumers. The CPPA also provides for a Private Right of Action, codified in D.C. Official Code Â§ 28-3905(k)(1).
How to Delete Lien Records in the District of Columbia
Lien records can be deleted when full payment has been made for the property carrying the lien. Â Contact your creditors and arrange for a favorable payment plan or a lower amount if they are willing to negotiate. After payment, fill a Payoff/Lien Release form on the District of Columbia Housing Finance Agency (DCHFA). The DCHFA will perform the release, provide a copy to the applicant, and send the original copy to the District of Columbia Recorder of Deeds to be properly recorded. Records of pending liens that are expired or invalid can be deleted by appealing to the court to have the record deleted.
Lien records may be obtained at the Office of the Recorder of Deeds by mail or in-person at:
DC Office of Recorder of Deeds
1101 4th Street, SW, Suite 500W
Washington, DC 20024
You may also visit the D.C. Recorder of Deeds-Online Public Records website to review any documents, liens, or releases recorded in your name.
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