Having a criminal conviction on your record can cause many different issues, especially in terms of obtaining employment, professional licensing, and the right to vote. Even when a criminal case does not result in a formal conviction, the record of the arrest and the criminal prosecution can sometimes remain and cause similar issues.

Under specific circumstances, there are a number of convictions and records of arrest that can be sealed. This would make it so that they are off limits to all but law enforcement personnel. In other cases, a person’s record can be subject to a process known as expungement, wherein a criminal file is removed from public records completely.

The overall difference between record sealing and expungement is that the criminal records still “exist” when the records are sealed. The files and records are still there; however, they can’t be accessed by employers and other people. Generally speaking, it is standard procedure that a person’s juvenile criminal files are sealed once they turn 18 years old. It is important to note that they can sometimes still be accessed via court order.

Alternatively, expungement results in the actual deletion or erasing of criminal charges and arrest files. It will be as if they never occurred. There are specific charges that may be more difficult to get expunged than others. An example of this would be how misdemeanor charges are generally more easily expunged than felony charges. Laws governing criminal record sealing and expungement vary widely from state to state. Additionally, eligibility for such procedures frequently depends on the type of crime involved.

As of 2016, Iowa expungement laws permit the expungement of certain criminal records. Before filing for an expungement, it is important to understand the requirements and limitations of Iowa’s expungement system.

Sealing and Expungement of Juvenile Criminal Records in Iowa

Although the majority of juvenile arrest records are confidential in Iowa, many juvenile convictions or findings of delinquency are available to the public. However, a court may seal juvenile convictions and other records at their discretion. To reiterate, while a sealed record is not publicly available without a court order, it may still be available to law enforcement personnel and other such agencies.

In order to seal your juvenile record in the state of Iowa, you must meet specific eligibility requirements:

  • You must be 18 years old, or two years have passed since your criminal case ended;
  • You do not have any additional or pending criminal charges; and
  • You were not given youthful offender status, then transferred back to the court at age 18 and sentenced.

You will need to make your request in writing, and a hearing may be required. Additionally, keep in mind that most juvenile records are automatically expunged once you reach 21 years old. However, if you were convicted or plead guilty to a serious or aggravated crime while between the ages of 18 and 21 years old, you will need to adhere to the adult expungement process.

It is important to note that if you are a parent attempting to assist a minor in expunging their record, you will need to be directly related to the child in order to have access to their criminal history information. Additionally, an attorney representing the child in a proceeding to expunge their criminal record may also have access to the criminal records, along with the juvenile themselves. 

Further, it is also important to note that the military will have access to all records when performing a background search regarding qualifications to serve. The military will typically have the minor execute a legal document entitling them to search for all records. 

Expungement of Adult Criminal Records in Iowa

Due to recent changes to Iowa’s expungement laws, the state permits the expungement of specific arrest records and convictions. You may expunge your adult criminal record after 180 days if you were:

  • Acquitted;
  • The charges were dismissed; and/or
  • Judgment was deferred or withheld, and you completed the terms of the deferral to satisfaction.

The 180-day waiting period could be waived if you can provide evidence of good cause. You will also be required to pay any related court costs and financial obligations that are related to the charges. It is important to note that you cannot expunge your criminal record if you were found not guilty due to insanity, or if you were considered to be incompetent to stand trial

Additionally, Iowa law allows expungement of some alcohol-related convictions. An example of this would be how if you were convicted of public intoxication, consumption, or underage consumption, you may be entitled to an expungement if you have not had any additional convictions within the past two years.

How Do I Expunge a Criminal Conviction in Iowa?

In order to request expungement, you must first file a written petition or an Application to Expunge Court Record in Iowa. This should be done with the court that initially handled your criminal case. Once your petition has been filed, the court will review your request and either grant or deny your expungement. Depending on the specifics of your case, a hearing may be necessary.

Additionally, Iowa law allows for the restoration of citizenship rights under specific circumstances. An example of this would be voting rights. Unlike expungement, a restoration of your citizenship rights does not remove your criminal history. In order to regain your right to vote, you must file:

Different processes may apply if you wish to receive a pardon, or restoration of firearm rights.

Implications of a Successful Expungement

If an Iowa court grants your petition for expungement, you may lawfully state that the expunged criminal record does not exist. When most employers search your Iowa criminal record, the charges will not be present. However, an expungement in Iowa does not result in the destruction of your court records. What this means is that expunged records will still be available to law enforcement agencies.

Certain exceptions apply to this rule, due to the fact that there are specific jobs that require you to disclose any conviction even if they have been expunged. An example of this would be any job involving caring for children, as well as government jobs.

Expungement can make it easier to obtain an education or specific housing. As previously mentioned, you may be able to restore some of your civil rights by having your criminal charges expunged.

Do I Need an Iowa Attorney for Help in Expunging My Criminal Record?

If you wish to have your criminal record expunged, you should consult with an experienced and local criminal lawyer as soon as possible. The expungement process is fairly lengthy and complicated, and varies widely from state to state. Working with an area Iowa expungement attorney can ensure you receive the most relevant legal advice and representation based on your state’s laws regarding the matter. Your lawyer can also help you determine whether you meet eligibility requirements for expungement, and how to begin the requesting process. Additionally, an attorney will also be able to represent you in court, as needed.