Old criminal records prevent many Vermonters from obtaining jobs, housing or educational opportunities. If you have a past criminal conviction, or a charge that has been dismissed, you may want to figure out whether you can “expunge” or “seal” your criminal record.
Through the sealing or expungement process, the State of Vermont allows for specific convictions and dismissed charges to be wiped from your record after a certain amount of time has passed. There are a couple of different sealing and expungement laws, and the requirements are a bit different for each. We explain the requirements below.
Note: Generally you cannot expunge federal convictions. There is one exception for deferred sentences related to first-time drug offenses.
If you are eligible to expunge or seal your record, you can file a petition with the criminal court in the county in which you were charged or convicted. You can find a petition to fill in at the bottom of this page. (See “What steps do I take?”)
If after reviewing the information below you still have questions, contact Vermont Legal Aid for help. Our contact information is at the bottom of this page.
What’s the difference between sealing and expungement?
An expungement order will completely destroy all records of any arrest, charge or conviction information held by any criminal records database. Neither the public, nor law enforcement, can access your record of criminal justice incidents that have been expunged. When an expungement order is granted to you, you can lawfully say that you have never been arrested, charged or convicted of the crime expunged.
A sealing order has the same legal effect as an expungement order. That means you can lawfully say that you have never been arrested, charged or convicted of that offense. But, when a record is sealed, it is maintained by the courts and law enforcement.
What steps do I take?
You can petition to expunge your Vermont criminal record without a lawyer. Here are the steps you will need to take. If you get stuck or have questions, feel free to contact Vermont Legal Aid for guidance. (See “Need more help?” at the bottom of this page.)
Note: Apart from one very narrow exception, federal crimes cannot be expunged from your record. (The exception is that expungement/sealing is available for first-time simple drug possession offenses committed before the defendant turned 21 years old.)
Need more help?
If you would like to speak to Vermont Legal Aid at one of our upcoming clinics about expunging or sealing your record, follow the steps below. Note: We have clinics every four to six weeks. The next clinic may be several weeks away, so if this matter is urgent, please write “URGENT” in your message.
- Fill out our online form, and include your full name — with any aliases or names you have used in the past. Please provide:
- your date of birth
- the name of the victim (if there was one in your case), and
- your contact information (phone number(s), working email address, and mailing address).
- When the form asks about your legal problem, say that you need help with “expungement.” Also briefly explain why you would like to clear your record. Are you facing any specific challenges because of your record?
- If you have a copy of your record, or you know approximate dates of charges/convictions, please include that information. If you don’t have that information now and your convictions are from before 1990, try to get it before the clinic date by requesting it from the court at which you were charged/convicted.
- After you submit the form, someone from Vermont Legal Aid will contact you to schedule an appointment time for you to talk with an attorney during our next clinic. These happen every four to six weeks.
- If you cannot complete the online form for some reason, you can call Vermont Law Help at 1-800-889-2047.