Having a misdemeanor on your record can be a serious stumbling block along your career path. While misdemeanors are less serious than felonies, even what may seem a minor conviction at the time can still come back and require some serious criminal defense in the future.

For many, a misdemeanor charge is the embarrassing result of a one-time lapse in judgement. Anyone can make a mistake, and the process of expunging your record exists specifically for situations like this. Having your record expunged may be an option for you, and it’s one you’ll appreciate because it’ll allow you to say your record is clean with a clear conscience.

How Long Does a Misdemeanor Stay on Your Record?

There are a variety of circumstances that will determine how long a misdemeanor will stay on your record. Each state’s process can differ significantly, though there will be many key elements that will remain the same. Read this general overview as a starting point, but be sure and do your research for your state as well.

Where You Were Charged

If you want to have your record expunged, learning more about the process in your jurisdiction is the first step. In general, minors and first-time offenders will be able to have their records expunged in all 50 states. States may have wildly different guidelines.

In Ohio you only need to wait one year, in Nevada only two, and in Pennsylvania you may not be eligible unless you are at least 70 years old and you have lived a crime-free life for ten years. If you are under 60 years old, that’s a long wait!

The Nature of the Crime

The nature of the crime you committed that resulted in the misdemeanor conviction will also be a major factor. Your misdemeanor may have been a minor drug offense, resisting arrest, vandalism, shoplifting, or petty theft.

In these cases having your record expunged may be possible. However, if your misdemeanor was a sex crime such as indecent exposure or prostitution, or if you have a DUI on your record, you may not be a candidate.

How to Get a Misdemeanor Expunged

Make sure you understand what expungement means in your state and explore any other possible options, such as seeking a pardon, getting your records sealed, or getting a Certificate of Innocence. You may also want to consider a Certificate of Rehabilitation.

This is ideal for those who have been convicted of misdemeanor sex offenses because it is a court order that states you are now rehabilitated. There are other benefits as well that are worth looking into.

If these are not options for you and you need to start the expungement process, these are the steps you’ll need to take:

  1. Determine your eligibility in your jurisdiction. Most courthouse websites will have this information available on their website, and someone will be there to help you in person.
  2. File a petition with your local courthouse. Expect to pay some fees and make sure you understand what those are ahead of time and come prepared.
  3. Hire an attorney who specializes in expungements. This step is not required, but it is strongly recommended. Your lawyer will protect your interests and advocate on your behalf.

Prospective employers and landlords will be able to find out about any arrests you’ve had in the last seven years as well as any convictions in your background. Don’t delay starting this process, because it takes an average of three to six months to complete. In some states you will only have one chance to have your record expunged, so it’s important to make it count.


Don’t take chances with your future. Contact a professional to make sure the process is handled correctly from start to finish.

This is a guest post by John F. Marchiano Law Corp. in Henderson, NV. John F. Marchiano Law Corp represents Henderson’s oldest law firm. John is a criminal defense attorney with over 35 years of professional experience providing personalized, legal defense counsel to the community. 

If you have a DUI or other misdemeanor in the United States you may be ineligible to enter Canada. Learn how to enter Canada with a DUI.