FAQs About the New Tennessee Expungement Law
If I am eligible to have a conviction expunged, will the judge automatically grant my petition?
No. The law states, "In making a decision on the petition, the court shall consider all evidence and weigh the interests of the petitioner against the best interest of justice and public safety.” After hearing arguments from both sides, a Tennessee judge may decide to deny a petition for expungement that does not serve the interests of justice and public safety.
Do I need a lawyer to file a petition for expungement?
Eligible individuals may file petitions themselves (pro se), but if a petition is not successful, you must wait at least two (2) years before filing another petition. Should the Tennessee legislature repeal or amend the new law, there may not be a second chance in the future of petitioning the court for expungement of your criminal conviction.
Am I eligible to file a petition even if I no longer live in Tennessee?
Yes. While some Tennessee convictions are eligible for expungement, the statute does not require a petitioner to reside in Tennessee.
Is there anything I can do to strengthen my petition?
Yes. The new statute provides both the District Attorney and the petitioner (or his or her lawyer) with the opportunity to provide additional evidence to the court. Hiring an experienced criminal defense attorney may significantly increase your chances of success and help to speed up the process.
Will I be able to own a firearm and obtain a handgun carry permit if my conviction is expunged?
In many cases, an expungement will help Tennessee residents obtain a Handgun Carry Permit. Furthermore, all other rights (e.g. the rights to vote, sit on a jury, and run for office) should also be restored if any of these rights were taken at the time of your Tennessee criminal conviction.
Why does it make a difference if my Tennessee conviction occurred before 1989?
In 1989 all Tennessee criminal statutes were rewritten. The new expungement law only references statutes enacted in 1989 and since that time. There is, however, a provision of the new Tennessee expungement statute to include some convictions that occurred prior to 1989. The law provides specific guidelines to determine eligibility of these convictions and you should consult a knowledgeable Tennessee expungement lawyer to determine if your conviction qualifies for expungement.
Does the statute apply to the expungement of federal convictions that occurred in Tennessee?
No. The State of Tennessee has no authority over any federal convictions, regardless of the state in which the offense occurred.
If my petition fails, do I still have to pay the court $350?
Yes. The new Tennessee statute requires that you pay the court clerk $350 at the time you file your petition.
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