The information below is accurate to the authors’ knowledge at the time it was written. This is general information and is not a substitute for legal advice.

What is expungement?

Students with criminal records may be eligible for expungement. An expungement in Iowa does not erase your criminal history, but it does seal the court file. An expunged charge will not be visible to the public on Iowa Courts Online.

Even though an expunged case is sealed, records of the arrest, the charge, and the outcome of the case may still be available. Such records can be obtained from the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation if you sign a waiver of confidentiality. Criminal records may also be available on third-party websites, which may contain inaccuracies. In practice, an expunged charge may still be visible to employers and graduate schools. For this reason, SLS generally recommends disclosing expunged charges on applications, unless the application specifically directs you not to disclose expunged charges.

If you have questions about whether or how you should disclose your criminal history on an application, or if there is inaccurate information about your criminal history online, please contact Student Legal Services to schedule a time to speak with an attorney.

Eligibility for expungement

Expungement is available after successful completion of deferred judgment probation. The following information applies to expungements outside of the deferred judgment context.

In Iowa, expungement is only available for certain misdemeanor convictions and cases where you were found not guilty or all charges were dismissed. There are additional eligibility requirements as well, depending on the type of charge to be expunged.

If you have questions about your eligibility for expungement, please contact Student Legal Services to schedule a time to speak with an attorney.

If you have a case where you were found not guilty of all charges or all charges were dismissed, you normally must wait six months before expungement, but this requirement may be waived in special circumstances. Additionally, you must have paid all court costs, fees, and financial obligations on the case. If you were found not guilty by reason of insanity or were found incompetent to stand trial, you will not be eligible for expungement.

You may only expunge a conviction for public intoxication if you have had no criminal convictions (besides traffic tickets) during the two-year period after the public intoxication conviction.

You may only expunge a conviction for PAULA if you have had no criminal convictions (besides traffic tickets) during the two-year period after the PAULA conviction.

You may only expunge a conviction for prostitution if you were under 18 at the time of the act, and you have had no criminal convictions (besides traffic tickets) during the two-year period after the prostitution conviction.

Pursuant to a law that took effect on July 1, 2019, you may be eligible to expunge other convictions. The requirements are as follows:

  1. Applies to misdemeanors only and there are many exceptions (see below).
  2. More than eight years have passed since conviction.
  3. You have no pending criminal charges.
  4. You have paid all financial obligations in the case.
  5. You have not previously received more than one deferred judgment.
  6. You are only allowed one expungement under this rule in their lifetime, but one request can cover multiple convictions if they arose from the same transaction or occurrence.

Misdemeanor convictions not eligible for expungement under this law

  1. A conviction under section 123.46 – (public intoxication) (still eligible as described above)
  2. A conviction under section 123.47, subsection 3, or similar ordinance – (possession of alcohol under legal age) (still eligible as described above)
  3. A conviction for dependent adult abuse under section 235B.20.
  4. A conviction under section 321.218, 321A.32, or 321J.21. (certain driver’s license related offenses)
  5. A conviction under section 321J.2. (operating while intoxicated)
  6. A conviction for a sex offense as defined in section 692A.101.
  7. A conviction for involuntary manslaughter under section 707.5.
  8. A conviction for assault under section 708.2, subsection 3. (assault while using or displaying a dangerous weapon).
  9. A conviction under section 708.2A. (domestic abuse assault)
  10. A conviction for harassment under section 708.7.
  11. A conviction for stalking under section 708.11.
  12. A conviction for removal of an officer's communication or control device under section 708.12.
  13. A conviction for trespass under section 716.8, subsection 3 or 4. (with intent to commit a hate crime)
  14. A conviction under chapter 717C. (bestiality)
  15. A conviction under chapter 719. (obstructing justice, including interference with official acts and providing false identification information)
  16. A conviction under chapter 720. (interference with judicial process, including perjury and malicious prosecution)
  17. A conviction under section 721.2. (misconduct in [public] office)
  18. A conviction under section 721.10. (misuse of public records or files)
  19. A conviction under section 723.1. (riot)
  20. A conviction under chapter 724. (weapons related offenses)
  21. A conviction under chapter 726. (related to the protection of family and dependents, including child endangerment)
  22. A conviction under chapter 728. (obscenity related offenses)
  23. A conviction under chapter 901A. (sexually predatory offenses)
  24. A conviction for a comparable offense listed 49 C.F.R. section 383.5l(b) (table 1) or 49 C.F.R. section 383.5l(e) (table 4). (certain CDL related offenses)
  25. A conviction under prior law of an offense comparable to an offense enumerated in this subsection.

Request for expungement

Expungement is not automatic for any criminal charge (unless you have successfully completed deferred judgment probation). You have to submit a written request to the court. There is no filing fee to make this request. The Iowa Supreme Court adopted the following standard forms to request expungement:

You can register and file your request electronically here. If you choose not to file electronically, you will need to mail or give a copy of your application to the court and the county attorney. An expungement is not granted until a judge approves the application. SLS recommends that you keep a copy of the order granting expungement for your records.

If you have any questions about how to complete these forms, please contact Student Legal Services or another attorney. These resources are not a substitute for legal advice.

Also under Criminal Law:

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Police Encounters

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Fake IDs

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Deferred Judgment

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Paying Your Fines