Life After Release

How Long Does a Felony Stay on Your Record?

Conceding a felony charge on your record can be damaging. Not only do you serve several years behind bars, but even afterward, your new life can continue to feel like you’re still under punishment. Additionally, without adequate assistance, getting back on your feet, career-wise, can be a mighty struggle. Very few employers would consider applications from someone with a criminal record.

On the bright side, however, some of these charges may have a sort of expiry date. With this, you have a chance. But the lingering question is, how long until this ‘expiry period?’ And how do you get rid of the criminal record? The answer to this question may vary depending on several factors. However, a felony charge is pretty much the harshest sentence to receive in the United States. As such, it can dent your record for a little longer than a while.

In most cases, a felony crime can continue to show up on the victim’s record for life, unless the authorities expunge it. However, the eligibility to expunge depends on the felony. And not all felonies qualify for expungement. Also, the various processes associated with expungement can be hectic. Nonetheless, the stress can be worth it if you’re eligible for expungement.

Felony Expungement in State and Federal Courts

Getting approval for a felony expungement appeal can be challenging. Some states don’t even provide viable means to cater to such requests. As an alternative, you may have to request sealing, clemency, or an executive pardon from the governor.

Federal courts, on the other hand, don’t provide any means to request expungement for federal felonies. In its place, you may be allowed to ask a presidential pardon from the president.

Thankfully, lots of states are coming to terms with the impact caused by felony convictions, especially in the area of employability. For this reason, more states are amending the more stringent laws related to felony convictions. This way, repentant ex-cons can rejoin society more quickly. Also, felony conviction expungement can be approved more quickly, depending on the gravity of the felony charge.

how long does a felony stay on your record

How to Know Whether or Not You Are Eligible for Expungement

For federal felonies in the United States, you can’t obtain an expungement. However, on a state level, you may be eligible for expungement for minor felony charges. Yet the chances are very minimal.

There isn’t any one-fits-all solution for expungement eligibility. The requirements can vary depending on the state. These inequalities between states make it difficult to determine one’s suitability.

The safest way to ascertain whether or not you’re eligible for expungement is to seek the counsel of a local professional attorney. Also, you can carry out in-depth research on the state laws concerning felonies and expungement. One of the excellent resources you can turn to is the Collateral Consequences Resource Center (CCRC). Here, you’ll find the state comparison chart for both sealed and expunged record laws.

Pardons, Sealed Records, and Expunged Records


A pardon is an act that grants forgiveness to the offenses of a convicted individual. It may also cancel other outstanding punishments or sentences, including probation, jail time, fees, and so on. The right to pardon rests solely on the executive. At the state level, such powers are exclusive to the state governor. Similarly, at the federal level, the president holds such rights.

A pardon can forgive the offenses committed by an individual and may even cancel other outstanding punishments. However, it doesn’t clear the crime off your record. In effect, a pardon is a means to acknowledge that the individual has turned a new leaf. Hence, pardoning other outstanding punishments can be beneficial to such an individual.

Depending on the state involved, you may successfully erase the crime off your record by petitioning for expungement.

Sealed Records

Juvenile offenses are the most familiar with record sealing. In some states, if the offender is of adult age (mostly eighteen years and above), they may seal the juvenile record automatically. However, most other states will require the individual to file a petition before they can seal the record.

Sealed records are, to a certain extent, similar to expunged records. The difference, however, is that unlike expunged records, a sealed record will still appear on your account. However, a sealed record is ‘classified’ (concealed). It can only be made available upon request by a higher authority, such as law enforcement. Also, such requests must pass through a court order before coming forward.


Unlike record sealing and pardoning, expungement ensures that the charges are deleted from your records completely. You typically need an approved petition before you can proceed with this option.

There’s an explicit range of criteria to follow through to be eligible for expungement. These criteria can vary depending on the state and the severity of the charges. However, more severe felony charges are unlikely to qualify. Usually, such requests can quickly be dismissed or may concede deferred judgment. Ironically, however, these are the specific circumstances that can warrant an appeal for expungement in the first place.

how long does a felony stay on your record

Is the Seven Year Felony Rule True?

Ultimately, a felony crime remains on your record for life. These crimes are rated the highest, and, as such, no one takes them lightly. The only way to rid a felony off your criminal record is by having it sealed or expunged. For instance, if you already have a felony on your paper and you need employment or housing, you must have it expunged or sealed first.

If you’re lucky, the employer or agent carrying out your background check may consider older convictions less worrying. However, it would be smart to receive a certificate of rehabilitation or a pardon before the background check. It can do wonders at making a better impression of you.

Thankfully also, some states support the ‘Ban the Box law.’ This law prohibits employers from asking applicants to state whether or not they’ve had a criminal record when applying. As an alternative, they can make such inquiries later on during the hiring process. This way, the affected individual can have the benefit of a fair hearing. With this, one can explain a criminal background better. They can also discuss their rehabilitation and how it has changed them positively.

The seven years felony rule doesn’t apply to individuals who committed the crime, were proven guilty, and were convicted. However, if you were wrongly arrested for a felony and found not guilty upon trial, it may be applicable. In this case, the arrest could stay on your record for up to seven years. However, after that period, by law, such an arrest will no longer remain on your criminal record. It also won’t be brought forward even on a background check.

Legal bodies that enforce the seven years’ rule include the FCRA (Fair Credit Reporting Act) and the FTC (Fair Trade Commission). It’s also adequately supported by the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission). This body forbids every discrimination during employment, including that of individuals with a criminal record.

How to Expunge Felony Charges from Your Record

Expungement rules vary from state to state. Some states even refer to it by a different name. Other states only make provision for a certificate of rehabilitation, sealing of the record, or an executive pardon.

Below are some of the options provided by most states:

A Certificate of Rehabilitation

Obtaining this certificate is often the first big step towards receiving an executive pardon. This offer is different from an expungement, of course. However, it’s a step in the right direction and has tremendous benefits for the receiver.

A ‘Post-Plea Deferred Entry of Judgment’ or ‘Deferred Sentencing’

In California, this option is exclusive to minor felony charges only. To obtain this, the individual must complete their stipulated probation period successfully. Also, they must have applied in court and gained approval.

Through deferred sentencing, it’s possible to lower a minor felony charge to a misdemeanor. A post-plea deferred entry of judgment is only applicable to drug-related offenses.

Dismissal of Charges or a Set-Aside

In California, this option is exclusive to minor felony charges only. It’s equivalent to sealing the criminal record or expungement.

Additionally, although the criteria for expungement may vary from one state to the other, some requirements are similar across most states. They include:

  • Ample time must have passed since the conclusion of the felony case.
  • The individual must have completed all terms of deferred parole, disposition, probation, and the sentence successfully.
  • The individual shouldn’t have any other severe convictions like a federal felony or other offenses that can disqualify them.
  • The individual shouldn’t have any other criminal history from the first filing of the criminal charges.
  • The individual should only have a minimal, or preferably, no criminal history at all.
how long does a felony stay on your record

How Long Does a Felony Stay on Your Record?

Different states have their distinctive laid down stipulations concerning how long a felony charge can appear on an individual’s record. Here are some state’s criteria regarding how long a felony can remain on someone’s criminal history.

How Long Does a Felony Stay on Your Record in Michigan?

Under Michigan law, a felony record can stay on your record for up to five or six years. By the law, one can have up to two misdemeanors or a felony put out five years after the justice system must have completed their monitoring. If the individual has a felony and not more than two misdemeanors, they can be eligible for expungement.

Due to the court system in Michigan, the process for having an expungement petition approved can take several months. The court has to receive a report from the Michigan State Police. This process can take a while, and it can extend your hearing date longer than estimated.

Once the court has granted you expungement, ensure that they also send copies to every other agency that has a record of your conviction. Also, you must insist on the removal of the criminal record from the state’s internet criminal history access tool. This process can take up to two months.

How Long Does a Felony Stay on Your Record in Texas?

In Texas, criminal histories stay on your record infinitely until they get deleted. However, the provisions for expungement in Texas are very narrow. Alternatively, the state may grant a petition to seal the criminal record. This option is a more realistic course to pursue compared to an expungement if you’re lucky.

A sealed record prevents public disclosure of your criminal history. Only specific authorities will have access to the file. If the individual has completed their deferred adjunction community supervision successfully, they can appeal. The court will receive the petition for nondisclosure of the criminal record. The §411.071 Texas Government Code supports this claim.

If the individual got arrested for a felony or misdemeanor and they meet specific criteria explicitly, their criminal record may be eligible for expungement. Meanwhile, they must also satisfy the following conditions:

  • The court must have acquitted the individual of the criminal charge they faced.
  • The individual must have been convicted wrongfully and subsequently found innocent, or
  • The individual must have obtained pardon if they were convicted justly.
  • The prosecutors must have charged the individual by information or indictment. The court must have dismissed the case. Also, the statute of limitations must have expired, or
  • The individual must have been arrested but not charged formerly. Also, they must satisfy the stipulations below:

According to Texas laws, if you were arrested but not charged formerly, you are required to wait for a certain period before filing for expungement. Below are the stipulations for the waiting periods:

Class C Misdemeanor

This class takes a hundred and eighty days from the day of your arrest.

Class B Misdemeanor

This class takes a year from the day of your arrest.

Class A Misdemeanor

This class takes a year from the day of your arrest.


This category takes three years from the day of your arrest.

If you had been convicted, acquitted, and were factually innocent or pardoned, these statutes don’t specify the waiting periods for your expunction, as outlined in Texas Criminal Code §55.01.

How Long Does a Felony Stay on Your Record in Florida?

As you know by now, a felony conviction will remain on your record indefinitely except you get it expunged. It’s the same in Florida, except, there’s also one unusual exception. You can be guilty of a felony and not get convicted in a court. How? A criminal may request to have their criminal history expunged or sealed after pleading guilty to their crime.

In Florida, a felony criminal record can remain on your account throughout your life. However, there are four exceptions to help you get rid of them:

  • You can get a presidential pardon.
  • The governor of Florida can grant you a full pardon.
  • You can get an expungement.
  • You can legally seal the crime if, after you were found guilty, the judge withheld the conviction. Using legal terms, professionals refer to this as withholding of adjudication.

As smooth as it looks in Florida, the various processes involved in filing an expungement can be hectic. First, you have to secure a certificate of eligibility. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement issues this document. On its own, the certificate won’t obliterate your criminal record. However, it facilitates the process of expungement or sealing of the criminal record.

If you don’t go through the correct processes, several conditions can ensue a denial of your expungement request:

  • There may be a pending expungement or sealing application on your record.
  • Your criminal history may show a felony conviction.
  • There may be a conviction for specific driving violations like reckless driving or DUI on your record.
  • Your criminal record may indicate that you’ve not completed your court supervision on the charge.
  • There may be a conviction for specific sex crimes on your record.
  • There may be a prior expunction or sealing on your criminal record.

How Long Does a Felony Stay on Your Record in Ohio?

Just like other states in the U.S., in Ohio, a felony charge will remain on your record indefinitely, except through expungement. However, the Ohio State Law allows a statutory waiting period after a felony conviction. Depending on the charge, the window may last for three years. Afterward, the individual is eligible to begin the process of expungement.

Unconventionally, however, the Ohio State Law doesn’t start counting from when the court recorded the conviction. Instead, it begins on the last date of discharge.

These statutes don’t cover every kind of felony. The conditions vary depending on the degree of the crime.


If you get convicted of a misdemeanor, you’d have to wait one year before applying for expungement or sealing of the record.

Single Felony Conviction

For a single felony conviction, you’ll wait for three years before filing for expungement or sealing of the record.

Two Felony Convictions

Individuals with up to two felony convictions have to wait at least four years before applying for record sealing or expungement.

Three, Four, or Five Felony Convictions

If you got convicted with up to three, four, or five felonies, you’d need to wait five years before filing for expungement.

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