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The basics of expungement and how Iowa treats records

Iowa state laws can make it difficult for people with a criminal conviction to have their criminal records expunged, but in certain circumstances a person can compel the Department of Public Safety to remove a conviction record or at the very least restrict the public's ability to obtain this information.

In 2010 Iowa passed a specific expungement law for alcohol-related offenses. However, this law really only pertains to public intoxication and underage possession offenses, and does not allow a person convicted of an OUI to have this record expunged. In fact, there is no way to have an OUI conviction fully removed from a person's record, no matter how much time has passed since the conviction occurred. The same is true of most other serious convictions in Iowa, including all felonies and even misdemeanors of a personal or physically violent nature.

Since expungement may not be an option for many criminal defendants, it's more important than ever for defendants to take steps to try to avoid a conviction. The first step every person accused of a crime should take is to set up a consultation with an experienced Iowa defense attorney. An attorney can provide a comprehensive review of the strengths and weaknesses of the prosecution's case and give the defendant a reasonable assessment of their legal options.

In some cases, taking the case to trial and fighting the charges may be the favored course of action, or in some cases the attorney may suggest taking a plea. In some instances, a plea could help a person avoid a criminal conviction, and if the defendant adheres to the plea agreement they could have their charges dismissed, keeping their criminal record clean in the process.

Source: Papillon Foundation, "Expungement FAQ," accessed Jan. 24, 2015

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