How Long Does a Felony Stay on Record?

Updated May 3, 2024
5 min read
Title "How Long Does a Felony Stay on Record?"; calendar, notebook, LAW book, handcuffs, US flag

The only way to remove a felony charge is to have your record expunged. The expungement process is similar to having your felony records sealed from public view. However, expungement goes one step further. It also hides your criminal record from government agencies and means you’re not legally required to tell third parties about the felony charges. It essentially wipes your record clean of criminal charges to help previous criminals move on from past mistakes. You can learn more about the process in this guide, as well as the numerous benefits that sealing your criminal record has on your future prospects.

Expungement Process and Record Expungement Requirements

Does a felony go away? Yes, and all states allow people to expunge their criminal records. However, each jurisdiction has its own set of processes and requirements for removing a felony on record. For example, felonies can be expunged in California only if the defendant has completed their probation. Another example is that in some states you have a waiting period that must pass before the felony on record can be removed. Others only allow the expungement of felony arrests that did not lead to criminal charges or a guilty plea.

So, does a felony go away after expungement? Most US states require one or more of the following factors to apply before expungement is considered possible:

  • The criminal offense happened a long time ago

  • The individual was a juvenile when they committed the crime

  • The felony record is for an arrest rather than a conviction

  • The offense was for a minor crime or misdemeanor

The previous point is of particular importance when discussing “How long do felonies stay on your record?” While misdemeanors and minor crimes are readily accepted to be expunged, not all felony convictions are eligible. These ineligible offenses are generally crimes that cause danger to the public and thus must remain public knowledge for the safety of others. Examples include sex offenses, violent crimes, class A felonies (including murder, rape, kidnapping, and arson), and other dangerous crimes.

How Does the Expungement Process Work?

The expungement process can be complicated and typically requires a lot of legal paperwork. It is recommended to book a consultation and speak to an expungement lawyer for help completing all of the legal documents and aiding the application. With that being said, a simplified version of the legal process is detailed below:

1. Complete an application

To begin the expungement process, the person seeking to have the arrest or conviction removed from their record needs to complete an application. The exact legal paperwork that is required varies between states. Many of the documents required are hard to get your hands on, but court records are a good place to start.

2. File the petition

Once complete, the petition for expungement needs to be filed with the courts. Before this can happen, the applicant may also have to deliver papers to agencies linked with the arrest and district attorneys. Some US states also require formal approval from the prosecutor’s office before the expungement petition is considered by the courts.

3. Court overview and hearing

After receiving the application to have your records expunged, the courts will review the information and decide whether or not to grant the request. For most felony cases, a court hearing is required. The judge at the hearing will have the final say on whether the expungement is allowed.

When does a felony go off your record? After the expungement has been granted, how long until a felony is off your record depends on your jurisdiction. Most arrests and convictions will be destroyed and removed immediately once the courts have filed all the correct paperwork.

How Can You Fight a Felony Charge?

Felonies that are not eligible for expungements – such as murder, rape, arson, violent crimes, sex offenses, and kidnapping – cannot ever be removed from your criminal record. In terms of these crimes, does a felony stay on your record forever? No! Therefore, your best chance of maintaining a clear criminal record is to fight the criminal charge so it doesn’t lead to a conviction.

Your best chance of succeeding at this is to appoint an experienced lawyer with a professional license to help fight your case. Below are six of the most common strategies that lawyers use when helping criminal defendants fight felony charges:

  1. Showing that there is not enough evidence to prove the defendant committed the crime

  2. Providing evidence that proves the defendant’s constitutional rights were violated

  3. Entering a plea agreement, though this is commonly reserved for misdemeanors

  4. Cooperating with the prosecution and getting the defendant to testify in another case

  5. Entering the defendant into a pretrial rehabilitation program

  6. Pleading guilty to a misdemeanor case to drop the felony charges

What Are the Benefits of Expunging a Prior Conviction?

There are many benefits of having your criminal record expunged. By wiping the slate clean and essentially gaining access to a fresh start, you gain access to better career and school opportunities that were previously restricted. It also protects your privacy and prevents your criminal past from showing up on background checks.

  • You do not legally have to disclose your criminal record on job applications, opening up more opportunities within your career.
  • You can easily obtain professional licenses and join professional organizations that you were previouslyn’t eligible for because of your criminal record.
  • You will be eligible for government funding such as public grants, student loans, and scholarships you would have previously been denied.
  • You do not have to deal with prejudice and negative opinions from neighbors and other members of the local community, which could negatively impact your life.

Is There Anything That an Expungement Will Not Do?

Although expunging your records is an excellent option for previous felons seeking a fresh start, it cannot fix everything. 


 There are some limitations to what the legal process can achieve, including the following:

  • An expungement cannot restore gun rights to felons.
  • An expungement cannot end the right of sex offenders to register their whereabouts.
  • An expungement cannot give people with DUI crimes back their driver’s license.

But most importantly, do felonies go away when records are expunged? Yes, they do! Expunging your records is seen as a legal pardon and erases the felony charge in the eyes of the law. So, despite the few limitations of record expungement, the main benefit is undeniably welcome. You’re left with a fresh start and can put unjust crimes to bed for good.


How long do felonies stay on your record? Criminal charges stay on your record forever unless they are expunged. The expungement process is long, complex, and involves a lot of paperwork. Moreover, each US state has its laws and eligibility requirements; crimes that can be expunged in one state might not be accepted in another. Felony convictions are particularly controversial, with expungement not available for violent crimes or sex offenses.

If you have been charged with a felony and want to clear your record, speak to a certified lawyer. They will find a solid answer to the question, “How long does a felony stay on your record?” and explain your legal rights and whether expungement is an option for you besides helping you fight your criminal charges. Where the record cannot be cleared, a lawyer can at least help to reduce the offense’s associated penalties and punishments.

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