How to Expunge my Public Records in Tennessee

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To delete a public record is to officially remove it permanently from the public domain. Tennessee residents may seek to have their records deleted from the public domain for several reasons. For instance, a deleted arrest record will not show up during a background check, which affords the record owner the opportunity for a fresh start in life. Public records are generally held in state-owned repositories. However, certain third-party companies also make them available on their websites to any interested person for a fee.

Public records may contain confidential information such as phone numbers, home addresses, and occasionally, social security numbers. Having such information in the public domain often poses a security threat to the owners. Personally identifying information may be used by fraudsters for several nefarious acts. Examples include identity theft, telemarketing spam, stalking, and pretexting. To forestall these, individuals may opt to have their records deleted from the prying eyes of the public. To achieve this, a record owner may contact the record repository to make inquiries about the information that can be redacted, changed, removed, or replaced.

Although deleting records in Tennessee may deny the public access to them, they still exist in state files. As such, they can still be accessed by specific government agencies in the course of discharging their official duties. Hence, public records deletion is technically impossible in Tennessee.

What Is A Public Record In Tennessee?

In Tennessee, a public record is a documentation of the official activities of a government body in the state. It includes all documents, papers, letters, maps, books, photographs, microfilms, electronic data processing files and output, films, and sound recordings. All documents and materials maintained by government bodies are public records in Tennessee.

Enacted in 1957, the Tennessee Open Records Acts (TPRA) authorizes members of the public the right to inspect and make copies of public records. Requesters are not required to disclose the purpose for requesting access to public information. However, it must not be used for commercial gains or fraudulent activities. Record custodians are mandated by the TPRA to make requested records available to the public in any format required as long as it is within their jurisdiction. The TPRA provides checks and balances in government activities, thus ensuring transparency and accountability among public officials.

Some of Tennessee public records include:

  • Court Records
  • Criminal records
  • Vital Records (birth, death, marriage, and divorce records)
  • Arrest Records
  • Licensing records
  • Financial Records
  • Real estate appraisal records
  • Sex offender registration files
  • Inmate records
  • Budget records

However, not all Tennessee public records are accessible to the public. Some records can only be accessed by eligible or authorized members of the public, especially records that contain sensitive and confidential information about a person or the state. Per Section 10-7-504 of the Tennessee Annotated Code, there are statutory exemptions to the public records Act. These records are exempted to protect the privacy rights of the owners and citizens when such records contain information that might put public safety at risk. Examples of exempted public records in Tennessee include:

  • Juvenile arrest records
  • Medical records
  • Information on an ongoing investigation
  • Personal data of public employees

In Tennessee, persons who wish to delete sensitive information from their public records may file petitions with the convicting courts to get such information expunged from public repositories.

Does Tennessee Allow Expungement?

Yes, Tennessee allows expungement. Tennessee law permits residents convicted of certain offenses to have the information expunged from their records. Expungement is the court-ordered process of erasing all or part of a record from state-controlled public repositories.

While there is a provision for citizens to file a petition for expungement, it is not automatic. Approval or rejection is at the discretion of the court. However, when an expungement petition is approved, a court order is issued, requesting all documentation of the information to be withdrawn, destroyed, or permanently removed from public view.

Tennessee criminal record expungement helps to restore an offender's legal status to that of a person with no criminal past, enabling them to honestly deny ever committing the expunged crime. However, only certain crimes can be expunged in Tennessee, and they must be non-violent and non-sexual crimes. Also, DUI offenses are not eligible for expungement. Eligible crimes include most misdemeanors and some Class E Felonies, including:

  • Forgery
  • Theft
  • Vandalism
  • Fraudulent or false insurance claims

A list of Tennessee's eligible and non-eligible offenses is in the inclusion/exclusion list, according to T.C.A. §40-32-101 (k).

How Do I Expunge My Criminal Record In Tennessee?

Several conditions must be met to become eligible for a Tennessee criminal record expungement. A criminal record in Tennessee contains a person's misdemeanor and felony arrest details. It is publicly accessible and always shows up during a background check. Therefore,  having a charge or conviction expunged is worth it.

To qualify for Tennessee state arrest record expungement, a person's case must fall under one of the following categories:

Juvenile offender

  • A petition alleging delinquency was not filed
  • Proceedings were dismissed after a petition was filed, or the case was transferred to Juvenile Court
  • The offender was adjudicated not to be a delinquent child
  • The child has attained 18 years of age and there is no record that a criminal offense was committed after attaining 16 years of age unless such fingerprints were obtained on an alleged charge which if committed by an adult would be a felony

Adult offender

  • Charges were dismissed
  • No true bill was returned by Jury
  • A verdict of not guilty was returned by Jury
  • The conviction was reversed by appeal
  • Nolle Prosequi was entered in the case
  • Successful completion of all probation provisions and proceedings against defendant have been discharged by the court
  • Suspension of prosecution

After confirming their eligibility, an individual must ensure that a five-year waiting period has elapsed from the date of their discharge from parole, prison release, or completion of probation. Also, there must be no new criminal charge or conviction during this period. If these conditions are met, a person can file for expungement in Tennessee. To commence the process, the petitioner must obtain a copy of their criminal case information for the charge or conviction to be expunged. The case file will provide the information required for expungement, such as:

  • The case number
  • The sentence, if any
  • Conviction date
  • Amount of fine, if ordered to pay fines
  • The prison release date, if the offender was sentenced to state prison
  • The time parole ended, if the offender was released on parole

The petitioner can also contact the convicting criminal court for the required information. If the sentence was passed in Nashville City, Davidson County, for instance, the petitioner may visit the county court clerk's office. Also available is the Caselink, an online case management tool provided for public access to the records of the Circuit Court. They may also use the C-Track case management tool of Public Case History, which allows interested persons to look up court cases heard in Tennessee.

Having obtained all the required information, a petitioner should complete the Order for Expungement of Criminal Record Form. The charges that qualify for expungement must be indicated alongside other information. To file multiple charges, it is advisable to check with the court clerk because some courts require separate forms for multiple charges. The application must be notarized and enclosed with a copy of the petitioner's government-issued picture ID, proof of payment, and self-addressed envelopes - one for each conviction to be expunged. These should be submitted to the clerk's office in person or by mail. The envelopes will be used to mail the approved paperwork to the petitioner since the petitioner mostly is not required to appear in court. Application for Tennessee criminal record expungement must be filed at the court where the charge/conviction sentence was passed

For charges marked “dismissed”, ''nolle prosequi", "no true bill", or given a verdict of "not guilty", expungement is processed at no cost to the defendant. Additional fees apply to charges marked "with costs", charges on "diversion" (pretrial or judicial), and conviction charges. The petitioner is required to pay $100 for expungement. Where a case is marked “retired”, it means the court has put it on hold for a very long time. A petitioner must first request the charge to be changed to dismissal to get it expunged. A person may only seek to have two offenses expunged at a time, and the same fee charged to get one offense expunged is the same for two offenses in Tennessee.

The clerk processes an expungement request and sends it to the judge for approval. Upon approval, the public record is removed from local court records. This may take weeks, depending on the backlog of expungement requests awaiting processing at the clerk's office. If a petition is denied, the petitioner must wait for another three years before filing a new petition for the same charge or conviction.

After the court clerk completes an expungement process at the local level, the approved order is sent to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) and other relevant agencies. These include the Tennessee Department of Correction (TDOC), the county jail, and the arresting agency. Each agency will expunge the record from their publicly accessible repositories. A typical Tennessee arrest record expungement is processed in about 60 days.

The petitioner must request a certified copy of the court judgment and the expungement order before the record is expunged. The court clerk usually mails both documents to the petitioner using the self-addressed envelope submitted with the petition. This is imperative because in Tennessee, once a record is expunged, the record owner will no longer be able to access these evidentiary documents since they would have been destroyed.

Will My Expungement Record Show Up On A Background Check In Tennessee?

No, expungement records of individuals in Tennessee do not show up during a public background check. However, certain agencies and employers are authorized to access these records due to the nature of their services.

As part of the expungement process in Tennessee, the expungement order for an expunged record is logged into TBI's database for expunged offenders and pretrial diversions. The order includes the name of the petitioner, date of birth, and social security number. It also includes the dismissed offense, cause and date of dismissal, and the date the expungement order was entered. This data is released to authorized agencies and employers, including the judiciary, law enforcement and security agencies, facilities that cater to children, the aged, and the vulnerable population.

While it is lawful for the record owner to answer “No" to inquiries about the conviction after expungement, "yes but expunged" will be a more appropriate answer when seeking employment with these authorized agencies. Most third-party background-check service providers fail to update the information on their databases and they may have expunged criminal records showing up on background checks conducted by them. However, such a practice is Non-FCRA compliant.

How To Seal A Record In Tennessee

A sealed record still exists but is withdrawn from public access. There are no separate provisions for Tennessee arrest record sealing. Tennessee Bureau of Investigations will only erase a criminal conviction from a person's record based on the expungement order from the convicting court. The agency does not seal criminal records.

However, interested persons may petition a court of competent jurisdiction to seal off their non-criminal records from the prying eyes of the public. Petitioners must provide details of the records they wish to seal in their application and the reasons for the request. The decision to grant a sealing request is at the discretion of the court.

A court must determine whether the record is qualified for sealing either based on the exception rules of the TPRA (Tennessee Code Annotated section 10-7-504), Tennessee court rules, or any other state law. A record will not be sealed by a court solely on the petitioner's designation of the information therein as confidential under a protective order.

Who Can See My Sealed Record In Tennessee?

In Tennessee, a sealed record can be accessed by the record owner, the courts, and the government. Although sealed records still exist,  they are no longer accessible by normal means. Any unauthorized person who wishes to access a sealed record must petition a court of competent jurisdiction for an order to unseal the record. However, Tennessee allows sealed records to show up in the background checks conducted by the following employers:

  • Law enforcement agencies
  • Child care centers
  • Nursing homes and homes for the elderly
  • Schools (for teaching jobs)

How To Delete Bankruptcy Records In Tennessee

Bankruptcy records impact negatively on a person’s credit report and can prevent them from accessing new credit. In Tennessee, it is impossible to delete a legitimate and accurately filed bankruptcy record until its tenure has lapsed. Individuals seeking to delete bankruptcy records will have to wait for several years, depending on the type of bankruptcy filed. A Chapter 7 bankruptcy is deleted ten years after the filing date. Also known as liquidation, a trustee sells the debtor’s assets and pays off the creditors. A Chapter 13 bankruptcy (reorganization) is deleted seven years from the filing date. In this case, the debtor, usually a commercial enterprise, repays creditors through a court-approved plan of reorganization and continues to operate the business concurrently.

According to the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), a bankruptcy record can be deleted earlier if it can be proved beyond doubt that it is misreported, unsubstantiated, or found to be inaccurate.

Any of the following is a tenable proof of error:

  • Discharged debts still show a balance in the bankruptcy report.
  • The bankruptcy report still shows individual accounts after seven years.
  • Bankruptcy still appears on a credit report more than ten years after filing.
  • Any other form of error in the bankruptcy report, such as wrong phone numbers, names, or addresses.
  • When a bankruptcy record shows on a person’s credit report without their knowledge, usually as a result of identity theft, mistaken identity, or clerical errors.

If any of these or other errors appear on a person's credit report, such an individual can take steps to challenge and delete it. The FCRA gives consumers a right to petition inaccurate credit reports. The first step is to file a report with the U.S Bankruptcy Trustee’s Office, from where it will be referred to the FBI for appropriate action. The case will be reopened, and the petitioner will be summoned to defend their claim of fraudulent bankruptcy. Upon approval, the reporting agency will immediately remove the bankruptcy record from the person’s credit report.

What Are Consumer Protection Laws In Tennessee?

The Tennessee Consumer Protection Act of 1977 (CPA), amended July 1, 2010, protects consumers and businesses from unfair and deceptive practices in the conduct of trade. The Act prohibits a total of 45 practices and categorizes them as Class B misdemeanors. The Tennessee Attorney General's Office (AGO) enforces all consumer-related laws in the state, including the CPA. Working in conjunction with the AGO, county prosecutors and state attorneys are empowered to penalize violators of the CPA. Consumers are advised to file complaints of incidents of fraudulent acts experienced by them to the Department of Consumer Affairs.

In 2018, Tennessee legislators passed the following set of laws to protect the interest of consumers and businesses in the state:

Tennessee has a few laws that protect the privacy of residents in the state. These include:

How To Delete Lien Records In Tennessee

In Tennessee, individuals may get their lien records deleted before their expiration by paying in full the debt or duty for which the lien was filed. A lien is a legal claim or charges on a debtor’s real or personal property by a creditor, usually to offset debt or duty. Types of lien include tax lien, property lien, mechanic’s lien, and judgment lien. A lien record is a public record in Tennessee, and the law provides for its removal from an individual’s credit history only after ten years.

To delete a lien record in Tennessee, an individual must first request a copy of their credit report using the online service provided by Tennessee Uniform Commercial Code (UCC). The person may also submit a completed UCC Information Request Form (TN Form UCC11) via mail or in person. A check for the appropriate filing fee ($15 per search report + $1 per extra copy) must be included with the document and mailed to the Secretary of State, Business Services Division at:

Uniform Commercial Code Unit

312 Rosa L. Parks Ave #6

Nashville, TN 37243-1102

A walk-in request should be submitted to:

6th Floor, Snodgrass Tower

312 Rosa L. Parks AVE

Nashville, TN 37243
Upon receipt of a credit report, the lienee must make full payment of the debt, including accrued interests. To do this, they must complete an Application for Noting of Lien Form, attach a copy of the lien instrument, the owner’s Tennessee Certificate of Title, and the applicable payment. Filing charges include $11 per new lien, $11 per title fee, and applicable county charges. The completed form can be submitted to the local county clerk's office. After due processing, a lien discharge or lien release document will be issued to the applicant, and the lien record will be removed from their public record.

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