D.C. Expungement: Actual Innocence

This page covers basic information on D.C. expungement motions filed on grounds of actual innocence. If you’re interested in pursuing an expungement in the District of Columbia or want more information about actual innocence expungement motions, call our law offices and speak with a DC expungement lawyer today.

About Actual Innocence Motions

One way to have your record expunged is by filing a motion with the court requesting that the court seal your criminal record on grounds of actual innocence.  This motion requires that the charge you are trying to have expunged did not result in a conviction, and it seeks to prove that either the offenses never occurred, or you were not the one who committed it.

It is also possible to file an expungement motion in the “interests of justice,” which does not require actual innocence and can even allow for the expungement of certain convictions.

Demonstrating Innocence


Proving your innocence of a charge is NOT the same thing as proving that you are not guilty of it. In order to expunge your criminal record on grounds of actual innocence, you must prove that you are innocent of the crime you are attempting to expunge from your record, not just that the charges were eventually dropped or that you won the case.Regardless of what the original charges were, misdemeanor or felony, any charge is eligible for the court’s review when seeking expungement on grounds of actual innocence.  However, depending on the amount of time that has passed since the charges were terminated, it may be more difficult to prove your case, which is why it is important to consult with a D.C. expungement attorney.

Time Constraints and Standards of Evidence

If you file for expungement on grounds of actual innocence within four years of the termination of the prosecution of the charges, you have to prove your innocence by a preponderance of the evidence.  This legal standard loosely translates to “more than 50 percent,” meaning that the evidence must show that you are more likely to be innocent than guilty of the charge.

If you file for expungement on grounds of actual innocence more than four years since the termination of the prosecution of the charges, you will have to prove your innocence by clear and convincing evidence.  This legal standard is greater than the preponderance of the evidence standard, meaning that you will face a greater burden in proving your innocence as the evidence will have to be substantially in your favor.  However, this standard is still lower than beyond a reasonable doubt, the government’s burden of proof in criminal proceedings.

Thus, once four years have passed since the termination of the charges against you, your case becomes considerably more difficult to prove.  As a result, while expungements on grounds of actual innocence can be filed at any time, it is in your best interest to file such a motion as soon as possible after your charges are terminated.  An experienced Washington, D.C. expungement lawyer will know how to combine the facts of your case with the law of the District to provide you an opportunity to have your motion granted.

Work with an Expungement Attorney Today

Because of the time-sensitive nature of these motions, it’s important to work with a DC expungement attorney as soon as possible in order to determine the most effective way to go about filing your actual innocence expungement motion. Call our DC law offices today to get started.

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