Expungement in Tennessee – How It Works

Expungement at No Cost?

  1. Yes, if the charge was dismissed. Or the grand jury declined to indict. Or if you were released without being charged.
  2. Also free of charge are records regarding a Petition for Order of Protection if successfully defended.
  3. If a person is acquitted at trial the charge may be expunged unless he was convicted of a related charge or a lesser included offense.

These expungements are easy in Nashville courts.

Go to the Criminal Court Clerk’s office on the second floor of the Birch Courthouse on Second Avenue.  The Clerk has streamlined the process and it only takes a few minutes.

Expungement Effects:

Expungement means “the conviction . . . never occurred.”  However, expunged offenses can be used to enhance a later sentence.

Note: Criminal defense attorneys are entitled to arrest histories (including expunged charges) of a potential witness in a criminal matter. There is little benefit to the attorney.  The law is that a witness may legally deny under oath the arrest, indictment, information, trial or conviction.  (This does not necessarily mean you can lie on a job application or on any federally related document.  See a lawyer.)

If you are otherwise eligible under state and federal law, you can get a handgun carry permit.

Fee-Based Expungements

Pre-Trial of Judicial Diversion Cases:

Expungement of pretrial and judicial diversions cost $350 per our legislature.  (The Davidson County Criminal Court Clerk charges $450.  They tell the author that Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) demands $450. I can only speculate that the TBI is double-charging for the records check.  No one should be surprised.)

Expungement is not permitted if the diversion is for and offense requiring inclusion on the Sexual Offender Registry.

Eligibility for Other Fee-Based Expungements


Pay $350 to the Clerk. File a Petition for Expungement. Payment plan is available but no hearing is scheduled until the $350 fee is paid.

District Attorney has 60 days to respond.

Petitioner and the district attorney general may file evidence with the court.

A hearing date is set.  The judge weighs the petitioner’s  interest against the interests of public safety.  If the judge denies the petition, the petitioner may file another petition two years later.

Persons convicted of certain misdemeanors and Class E felonies are now eligible for expungement under certain conditions:

 The sentence must have been 3 years or less. Five years must have passed since the expiration of the sentence. Of course, later convictions disqualify.

 These convictions include:

  1. Accessory after the fact;
  2. Custodial interference where person not voluntarily returned by defendant;
  3. Knowing dissemination of illegally recorded cellular communication;
  4. Theft ($501-$999);
  5. Forgery (up to $1,000);
  6. Criminal simulation (up to $1,000);
  7. Hindering secured creditors;
  8. Fraud in insolvency;
  9. Fraudulent use of credit card or debit card ($501-$999);
  10. Worthless checks ($501-$999);
  11. Destruction of valuable papers ($501-$999);
  12. Destruction or concealment of will;
  13. Fraudulent or false insurance claim ($501-$999);
  14. Fraudulent qualifying for set aside programs ($501-$999);
  15. Theft of trade secrets ($501-$999);
  16. Sale of recorded live performances without consent ($501-$999);
  17. Unauthorized solicitation for police, judicial or safety associations;
  18. Fraudulent transfer of motor vehicle with value of less than $20,000;
  19. Communication theft ($501-$999 (fine only));
  20. Home improvement fraud ($500-$1,000);
  21. Burglary of an auto;
  22. Vandalism ($501-$999);
  23. Utility service interruption or property damage;
  24. Aggravated criminal littering (2nd and 3rd offenses involving certain weight or volume);
  25. Violation of Tennessee Personal and Commercial Computer Act ($501-$999);
  26. Unsolicited bulk electronic mail ($500-$999);
  27. Taking telecommunication device into penal institution;
  28. Impersonation of licensed professional;
  29. Evading arrest in motor vehicle where no risk to bystanders;
  30. Failure to appear (felony);
  31. Gifts of adulterated candy or food;
  32. Manufacture, delivery, sale or possession of Schedule V drug (fine not greater than $5,000);
  33. Manufacture, delivery, sale or possession of not less than 1/2 ounce and not more than 10 pounds of Schedule VI drug marijuana (fine not greater than $2,500);
  34. Manufacture, delivery, sale or possession of Schedule VII drug (fine not greater than $1,000);
  35. Simple possession or casual exchange (3rd offense);
  36. Selling glue for unlawful purpose;
  37. Counterfeit controlled substance;
  38. Unlawful drug paraphernalia uses and activities;


Misdemeanor convictions excluded from consideration for expungement are:

  1. Assault;
  2. Aggravated assault of public employee;
  3. Domestic assault;
  4. Violation of protective or restraining order;
  5. Possession of firearm while order of protection in effect;
  6. Public indecency 3rd or subsequent offense;
  7. Indecent exposure (victim under 13 years of age) or a jail/prison inmate exposing to a guard;
  8. Violation of community supervision by sex offender not constituting offense or constituting misdemeanor;
  9. Soliciting minor to engage in Class E sexual offense;
  10. Unlawful sexual contact by authority figure;
  11. Fraudulent use of credit/debit card (up to $500);
  12. Reckless burning;
  13. Aggravated criminal trespass of a habitation, hospital, or school property, or on railroad property;
  14. Coercion — abortion;
  15. Third or subsequent violation of Child Rape Protection Act of 2006;
  16. Child abuse (where child is between ages 7-17);
  17. Child neglect and endangerment (where child is between ages 7-13);
  18. Enticing a child to purchase intoxicating liquor – purchasing alcoholic beverage for child;
  19. Allowing person ages 18-21 to consume alcohol on person’s premises;
  20. Harboring or hiding a runaway child;
  21. Stalking;
  22. Methamphetamine precursor offenses
  23. Using substance or device to falsify drug test results and selling synthetic urine;
  24. Possession of the hallucinogenic plant Salvia Divinorumor the synthetic cannabinoids;
  25. Sale or possession of synthetic derivatives or analogues of methcathinone (Cat);
  26. Importing, preparing, distributing, processing, or appearing in obscene material or Class A misdemeanors;
  27. Unlawful exhibition of obscene material;
  28. Sale or loan to minors of harmful materials;
  29. Unlawful massage or exposure of erogenous areas;
  30. Possession of firearm after being convicted of misdemeanor crime of domestic violence;
  31. Possession of firearm while order of protection is in effect;
  32. Possession of firearm while prohibited by state or federal law;
  33. Failure of adult to report juvenile carrying gun in school;
  34. Non-parent providing handgun to a juvenile;
  35. Failure to surrender handgun carry permit upon suspension;
  36. Violent felon owning or possessing vicious dog;
  37. Assault (offensive or provocative physical contact);
  38. Public indecency — first or second offense (punishable by $500 fine only);
  39. Indecent exposure (victim 13 years old or older);
  40. Disseminating smoking paraphernalia to minor after 3 prior violations;
  41. Misuse of official information by public servant;
  42. Disorderly conduct at funerals;
  43. Possession of or consuming alcoholic beverages on K-12 school premises;
  44. Display for sale or rental of material harmful to minors; and
  45. DUI, Driving under the influence;

Convictions for offense committed before November 1, 1989 are eligible for expungement if:

  1. The person was sentenced to to three (3) years or less;
  2. The person was not later convicted of a another criminal offense; and
  3. The person has never had a previous expungement under pretrial of judicial diversion

and if the convicted offense:

  1. Did not have as an element the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the person of another;
  2. Did not involve, by its nature, a substantial risk that physical force against the person of another would be used in the course of committing the offense;
  3. Did not involve the use or possession of a deadly weapon;
  4. Was not a sex offense for which the offender is required to register as a sexual offender or violent sexual offender; or any sex offense involving a minor;
  5. Did not result in the death or bodily injury;
  6. Did not involve the use of alcohol or drugs and a motor vehicle;
  7. Did not involve the sale or distribution of a Schedule I, II, III, or IV controlled substance;
  8. Did not involve a minor as the victim of the offense; or
  9. Did not cause a victim or victims to sustain a loss of $25,000 or more.

Note:  Multiple convictions can be expunged if committed at one location, at the same time and were part of a single continuous criminal episode if all other requirements are met.

I have one final thought.  Nashville District Attorney General Glenn Funk is rumored to be planning to pro-actively expunge thousands of old convictions.  These old convictions may have dogged people throughout their lives — may have cost them jobs and promotions — a better living.  What a great service to the citizens of Nashville! – Kenneth Quillen



Tenn. Code Ann. § 40-32-101

Tenn. Code Ann. § 40-15-102

Tenn. Code Ann. § 40-15-107

Tenn. Code Ann. § 40-32-101

Tenn. Code Ann. § 40-35-313