Individuals petition federal courts to have dismissed federal indictments expunged by visiting the court clerk's office and filing an application, according to Nolo. Unlike most state courts, federal courts do not have specific expungement procedures or specific standards for granting expungements. The standards differ by federal circuit.
Convincing a federal judge to expunge a criminal record requires a persuasive presentation, Nolo advises. The judge must agree that the existence of the record is unjust because employers, landlords, banks and others are able to access the indictment and may take adverse, unfair action against the petitioner if the record is not sealed. Even if a petitioner has a strong case supporting expungement, the federal court may not agree to hear the case.
Success at criminal record expungement depends greatly on the federal circuit to which the request is made, according to Nolo. Some circuits recognize the judge's right to expunge records if he considers it just to do so, whereas other circuits hold that judges cannot exercise free reign over expungement decisions and thus limit the judge's power to expunge records to a limited set of circumstances, such as an arrest that breaches the petitioner's constitutional rights. Representation by a criminal attorney can greatly increase the chances of a petitioner's success, Nolo notes.