An individual with a criminal history can clear his record through a process called expunging, or sealing the record. Applying for expungement typically involves filling out a form provided by the court with jurisdiction over the record.
Criminal records cannot always be expunged, Nolo notes. Different states have different rules about what records can and cannot be sealed. For example, a jurisdiction may allow arrests and misdemeanor convictions to be sealed, while felony convictions remain on record. A person may need meet certain conditions before a record can be sealed.
Sealing a record does not eliminate it, Nolo explains. Certain conditions can allow certain people to find out about sealed criminal records,
Drug crimes and juvenile offenses can sometimes be easier to seal than others, Nolo states. People arrested for drug offenses may have the opportunity to enroll in programs that allow for expungement of the associated criminal records following successful completion. Juvenile offenders have an option of getting their criminal records expunged once they reach the age of 18, if they stay out of trouble with the law.
If a person with a criminal record was arrested but the charges were dropped, or the person was declared not guilty in court, the person can seek a "certificate of actual innocence." This certificate proves that the record should not exist, as the person has been deemed factually innocent of any related crime.