By Christie Thompson
A Nashville lawyer hopes to wipe clean some arrest records for 128,000 Tennesseans. The lawyer, Daniel Horwitz, who has worked on multiple cases regarding incarceration and re-entry, has filed a class-action motion in county court to have the case files destroyed for hundreds of thousands of arrests and charges that never resulted in a conviction.
Many of those who could benefit from the process, called expungement, do not even know it. “A lot of the people who are affected by this already believe they’ve had their records expunged,” Horwitz told the Tennessean. That’s the thing about expungement: many who are eligible for it don’t know they are, advocates say, and many who know they are don’t know how to get it.
Expungements are a legal process that can clear arrests, charges and minor convictions from someone’s record (the Tennessee motion does not apply to convictions). Though “expunge” and “seal” are often used interchangeably, expungement means to erase such documents while “sealing” simply means they are no longer public record. The law on who is eligible for either varies state by state, and there is no encompassing federal law on expunging adult crimes.