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Understanding when expungement is an option

In our previous post, we discussed how a new law here in Tennessee lowered the amount of the felony expunction fee from a staggering $350, the third highest in the nation, to a more manageable $180.

In recognition of the fact that this discussion may have left people with questions about how the expungement works -- particularly in relation to criminal charges rather than criminal convictions -- today's post will take a closer look at the process.

At the outset, it's important to reiterate that expungement is the court-ordered process whereby arrests and/or charges can be removed from a criminal record, meaning they are essentially erased in the eyes of the law.

Furthermore, it's important to understand that it's not an automatic process, meaning those who want to expunge arrests and/or criminal charges will need to initiate and follow through with it on their own -- or with the guidance of a legal professional.


Tennessee law dictates expungement is an option in any of the following scenarios:

  • You were placed under arrest but released without charges
  • The charges against you were dismissed
  • A grand jury returned a "no true bill"
  • The case resulted in nolle prosequi (i.e., prosecution was discontinued)
  • Your trial resulted in a verdict of not guilty
  • A court denied an order of protection against you following a successful defense at a hearing  

It's worth noting that these types of charges may be expunged at no cost to a defendant. This is not the case, however, for those charges that were on diversion.

For those unfamiliar with this term, diversion refers to those scenarios in which a charge or charges are diverted for a pre-determined time period once the defendant 1) pleads guilty and 2) accepts conditions established by the judge. After successful completion of the diversionary period, the charge or charges may be expunged.

We'll continue this discussion in future posts, including exploring what actually happens if an expungement order is granted.

Consider speaking with an experienced legal professional as soon as possible if you would like to learn more about expungement or are facing any manner of criminal charges.

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Mr. McKellar was voted by his peers as a “Top Attorney” by Knoxville’s CityView Magazine in its 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017 editions. In 2014, 2015, and 2016, Mr. McKellar was selected as a member of the “Top 100 Trial Lawyers” by the National Trial Lawyers.

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