Can I Expunge a Civil Case?
An expungement can help open up new opportunities, and allow you to move on after a difficult time in your life. When your case is expunged, it is removed from public view—in other words, people can’t look up your case and learn private information about your personal life.
Unfortunately, the State doesn’t allow civil cases to be expunged. Here’s why, as well as some situations where you think you might be able to get an expungement, but can’t.
What does an expungement do?
Depending on the type, an expungement can remove the case listing, all case info, and any applicable case records. This will not only remove the listing from OSCN, but also remove the information on the docket sheet for the court clerk’s office. Your case essentially disappears from public view. It even gives you the legal right to say that the case never occurred, such as when applying for a job or housing.
What types of cases can be expunged?
Many criminal cases can be expunged if they meet the required criteria. Additionally, protective orders can be expunged if they meet the necessary criteria. However, general civil cases cannot be expunged. This is because the expungement statute only allows for expunging criminal matters, and has no provision for expunging civil cases.
Common Cases That Do Not Qualify For Expungement
Many people want to expunge their small claims history. In many instances, a person may receive a judgment against you for something you didn’t even realize was an issue. This is very common with apartment rentals.
If you damage property in an apartment and your deposit doesn’t cover the damage, the landlord may receive a judgment against you in small claims court to cover the cost of the damage. Regardless of the situation, small claims judgments cannot be expunged.
Bankruptcy exists as a fail safe to help you get back on your feet after a tragic loss. However, there is a stigma attached with filing bankruptcy and many people want to expunge this type of case off of their record after they get back on their feet. Unfortunately, there is not a form of expungement for a bankruptcy case.
Assault and Battery
This is a very common case that people expect to be able to expunge, but can’t. If you are criminally charged with assault and battery, you may be eligible for an expungement once you meet certain criteria. However, if the victim chooses to file a civil case against you to recover financial compensation for their injuries, you will not be able to expunge the civil case. This can be confusing and leave you with a record of the incident, even if you get your criminal case fully expunged.
The Bottom Line
Ultimately, you cannot expunge a civil case. While there are some exceptions, such as certain protective orders, a general civil case cannot be expunged and will remain on OSCN or other similar case collection sites in perpetuity.