The primary method of removing an arrest record is through an expungement of the entire criminal record, according to Nolo. The most common form of expungement is via a certificate of actual innocence, which not only removes the record but states that it should never have existed.
In order to expunge a criminal record, and therefore an arrest record, a citizen must fit two main criteria. First, the actual crime must be eligible for expungement, according to Nolo. Specific jurisdictions have individual laws, but, generally, only misdemeanors and arrests without convictions are eligible. Felonies are unilaterally ineligible. Second, expungement is only possible after serving the entire sentence, which also includes any probation periods. In extreme cases, the presiding judge can remove this restriction.
If the crime and criminal are eligible for removing the criminal record, the next step is applying for a "Motion for Expungement." It is not necessary to use a lawyer for this process, as it is bureaucratic, not judicial, in nature, according to Nolo. Even if the criminal and arrest records are expunged, some government agencies still have access to the record, especially police departments and licensing boards. Finally, it is generally easiest to expunge juvenile records.