New Law Reduces Tennessee’s Expungement Fee for Convictions from $450 to $280

By Nashville Expungement Attorney Daniel A. Horwitz:

*Note: This is a free informational resource about expungement law in Tennessee.  If you are looking to hire an attorney to expunge your record for you, please click here instead.*

A new law that reduces the total cost of expunging a conviction from $450 to $280 was officially signed by Governor Haslam on May 25, 2017.  The new law, sponsored by Representative Raumesh Akbari (D-Memphis) and Senator Mark Norris (R-Collierville), takes effect immediately.

Until yesterday, Tennessee had the third-highest expungement fee in the entire country.  Regrettably, even if a person is indigent, Tennessee also does not allow expungement fees to be waived—meaning that expungement still remains out of reach for many of the people who need it most.  However, reducing the total cost of expunging a conviction by nearly 40% will significantly improve access to expungement for those who are eligible to have their charges cleared.  As a result, this reform should be universally applauded.

In Tennessee, people whose charges were dismissed are eligible to have their records expunged for free.  However, only some convictions are eligible to be expunged.  If a person was convicted of a felony, then the person may be eligible for expungement if their charge appears on this list.  If a person was convicted of a misdemeanor, then the person may be eligible for expungement if their charge does not appear on this list.  Based on a new law enacted on May 5, 2017, some people with exactly two eligible convictions can now get both of their charges expunged as well.  Additional details on that new “double expungement” law are available here.

If you think you may be eligible to have your record expunged and want to hire an attorney to evaluate your eligibility or file your paperwork for you, please click here.

Eligible Individuals With Exactly Two Convictions Now Eligible to Get Their Records Expunged in Tennessee

By Nashville Expungement Attorney Daniel A. Horwitz:

*Note: This is a free informational resource about expungement law in Tennessee.  If you are looking to hire an attorney to expunge your record for you, please click here instead.*

Under a new law signed by Governor Bill Haslam on May 5th, certain individuals can now get two convictions expunged in Tennessee.  The new law provides that a person with exactly two eligible misdemeanor convictions or exactly one eligible misdemeanor conviction and one eligible felony conviction can now get both charges expunged.

Before the new law was passed, a second conviction for anything other than a traffic offense generally prevented a person from getting any conviction expunged in Tennessee—even if both convictions were eligible individually.  Based on the new law, however, many people with two convictions will now be able to clean up their records and move forward with a clean background check.

Eligible misdemeanors are convictions for charges that do not appear on this list.  Eligible felonies are convictions for charges that do appear on this list.  To be eligible for expungement, an individual must also satisfy every requirement on this expungement checklist except for the first one, which is now out-of-date.

If you think you may be eligible to have your record expunged and want to hire an attorney to evaluate your eligibility or file your paperwork for you, please click here.

Driver’s License Offenses No Longer Prevent Convictions from Being Expunged in Nashville

By Nashville Expungement Attorney Daniel A. Horwitz:

*Note: This is a free informational resource about expungement law in Tennessee.  If you are looking to hire an attorney to expunge your record for you, please click here instead.*

In yet another welcome victory for expungement access in Tennessee, driver’s license offenses will no longer prevent people from expunging other criminal convictions.  The Davidson County District Attorney’s Office formally clarified its position on the matter in response to a petition filed by Nashville expungement attorney Daniel A. Horwitz.  The development will permit thousands of individuals in Nashville to get their convictions expunged who have only a single criminal conviction on their record other than a driver’s license offense.

Under Tennessee law, people who only have a single criminal conviction on their record can often get the charge expunged.  Felony convictions that are eligible for expungement are listed here.  Additionally, the only misdemeanor convictions that cannot be expunged are listed here.

Unfortunately, however, if a person has more than one criminal conviction on their record, then Tennessee law generally prohibits the person from expunging any criminal conviction—even if both charges would qualify for expungement independently.  Sadly, this “multi-conviction ban” prevents thousands of otherwise-eligible individuals from expunging their criminal records, causing people to be denied employment, housing, and other opportunities for no good reason.  Additionally, at present, there are only two exceptions to that rule:

1.  If the additional conviction is a “moving or nonmoving traffic offense”;[1] or

2.  “If the conduct upon which each conviction is based occurred contemporaneously, occurred at the same location, represented a single continuous criminal episode with a single criminal intent, and all such convictions are eligible for expunction under this part.”[2]

Until recently, it was thought that convictions for a Driving on a Revoked License charge or a Driving on a Suspended License charge precluded any additional convictions from being expunged based on the “multi-conviction ban” described above.  However, representing a client who had multiple Driving on a Revoked License convictions on his record but only a single misdemeanor conviction for Simple Possession of a controlled substance, Attorney Horwitz petitioned for expungement of the client’s misdemeanor conviction.  His specific legal theory was that driver’s license charges qualify as “moving or nonmoving traffic offense[s],” and thus, that such charges are exempt from Tennessee’s multi-conviction ban.  That theory was supported, among other things, by precedent from the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals in State v. North, No. 01C01-9312-CC-00418, 1994 WL 474841, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App. Sept. 1, 1994), which expressly refers to a “driving on a revoked license” charge as a “traffic offense.”

In another groundbreaking victory for expungement access, Nashville’s District Attorney agreed.  Thus, Davidson County District Attorney’s Office formally clarified that driver’s license convictions do not preclude expungement of additional, otherwise-eligible convictions.  Thus, for example, if you have three Driving on a Revoked License convictions on your record but only one felony conviction that appears on this list, then you are eligible to have the felony conviction expunged as long as you satisfy the additional expungement criteria described here.

If you think you may be eligible to have your record expunged and want to hire an attorney to evaluate your eligibility or file your paperwork for you, please click here.

[1] Tenn. Code Ann. § 40-32-101(g)(2)(A).

[2] Tenn. Code Ann. § 40-32-101(g)(1)(E).

After Groundbreaking Victory in Court, New Expungement Law May Benefit You

By Nashville Expungement Attorney Daniel A. Horwitz:

*Note: This is a free informational resource about expungement law in Tennessee.  If you are looking to hire an attorney to expunge your record for you, please click here instead.*

A new expungement law enacted in 2015 is finally being applied to cases in Nashville.  The reform will benefit tens of thousands of people who were charged with multiple offenses but were only convicted of some of them.

Tennessee’s “partial expungement” law permits people to expunge records in cases where they were convicted of some charges but not others.  The relevant portion of the law states that: “A person . . . shall be entitled to partial expunction of any public records relating to the person’s arrest, indictment, charging instrument, or disposition for any charges other than the offense for which the person was convicted.”  Thus, if a person was indicted on three charges but was only found guilty of one of them, then the two charges that did not result in a conviction can both be expunged from the person’s record.  As explained in this summary of Tennessee’s expungement law, dismissed charges are also eligible to be expunged from a person’s record free of charge.

Although the text of Tenn. Code Ann. § 40-32-101(j) is and always has been clear, government attorneys who oppose the entire concept of expungement persistently refused to acknowledge that this law actually meant what it said. Sadly, denying people access to expungement also commonly results in job loss, housing discrimination, and other lost opportunities.  Until last week, however, people in Nashville who sought to take advantage of the new partial expungement law were all denied their rights.

Fortunately, several recent events finally caused the law to be enforced in Nashville as intended.

First, after being denied the opportunity to expunge a dismissed charge on his record stemming from a two-count indictment, Mr. Bobby Doe (a pseudonym) decided to demand his rights and sue.  Regrettably, the Metro Legal Department had incorrectly advised the Criminal Court Clerk not to process any partial expungements after the new partial expungement law went into effect in July 2015.  Unfortunately, because most people can’t afford to hire an attorney to fight the government, others who had been wrongfully denied their rights under the new partial expungement law did nothing about it.  However, because he needed his record expunged for a job opportunity, Mr. Doe insisted that his rights be respected.  Accordingly, Mr. Doe hired the author of this blog post (Daniel Horwitz) to represent him.  This author then filed suit in Davidson County Criminal Court on August 8, 2016 and demanded a court order directing the clerk to expunge Mr. Doe’s dismissed charge.

Next, three weeks after Mr. Doe filed suit, the Attorney General finally issued an opinion interpreting Tenn. Code Ann. § 40-32-101(j).  It is not clear whether the release of the Attorney General’s opinion – which had been requested long beforehand but had not been forthcoming – was prompted by Mr. Doe’s lawsuit.  Regardless, however, the Attorney General opined that the partial expungement law did, in fact, mean exactly what it said.  Thus, the opinion confirms that: “criminal court clerks must destroy public records that relate [] to offenses for which a petitioner was not convicted.

Despite the Attorney General’s opinion on the matter, however, local prosecutors and attorneys in the Metro Legal Department still refused to comply.  Accordingly, they attempted to fight Mr. Doe’s lawsuit in court, and a contested hearing was held on September 16, 2016.  Thereafter, on September 20, 2016, the Court issued a groundbreaking order (accessible here) in favor of Mr. Doe.  The Court’s ruling declared that Mr. Doe’s reading was correct and that the Government’s reading had been wrong all along.  Consequently, the Court ordered the clerk to expunge Mr. Doe’s record immediately.

Finally, faced with binding judicial precedent on the matter, the government’s attorneys have officially backed down, and hundreds of partial expungements have since followed.  The ruling is a major victory for expungement access that will ultimately benefit tens of thousands of people.  However, it should never have taken fourteen months and a court order for Metro officials to comply with the law in the first place.

If you think you may be eligible to have your record expunged and want to hire an attorney to evaluate your eligibility or file your paperwork for you, please click here.