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Eugene Nassif

Iowa’s policies keep a majority of criminal records public. The Iowa criminal court docket is available online for free. This means it’s accessible to your landlord, spouse, friends, neighbors or a future employer. However, in certain circumstances, you may be able to get a charge expunged.  


In this article, we explain how the expungement process works in Iowa criminal convictions and answer the following questions: 

  • What crimes can be expunged in Iowa
  • Deferred Judgments in Iowa
  • Governor’s pardons in Iowa Criminal Convictions
  • Does expungement affect my record? 


What crimes can be expunged in Iowa? 


A majority of criminal records can’t be removed from a person’s criminal history in Iowa. However, in 2016, a new law in Iowa provided that, in cases resulting either in dismissal or acquittal, the court can enter an order expunging the record of the case. In other words, it’s no longer accessible to the general public. While the record does still exist, it will only remain accessible to courts, prosecutors and law enforcement.  


The defendant, prosecutor or court may request for an expungement. In order for one to be granted, the following conditions must be met: 

  • All court costs and financial obligations by the court have been paid 
  • Over 180 days have passed since the acquittal or dismissal (this can be waived if there is good cause, such as mistaken identity) 
  • The case was not dismissed due to the defendant being not guilty by reason of insanity 
  • The defendant wasn’t found to be incompetent to stand trial. 


This law is applicable to all criminal cases, including those prior to the 2016 law allowing for expungements.  


There are two other instances where a court could consider expunging a criminal record. They are: 

  • If the conviction was public intoxication, consumption or underage possession of alcohol and the person hasn’t had a new conviction for at least two years following the conviction 
  • If the outcome of the case is a “deferred judgment” and the person has completed their terms of deferment. 


It’s worth noting now that these are the only ways an expungement can be obtained. Criminal records not covered above cannot be expunged and they will continue to appear on the online docket permanently, even if it’s just a misdemeanor.  


Deferred judgments in Iowa


Any completed deferred judgment after July 1, 2013 that didn’t end in conviction will automatically be put on a private list that can only be seen by courts, court staff, the department of corrections, the county attorney's office and law enforcement. Anything prior to July 1, 2013 will require application for expungement.  


The person seeking an expungement will need to file with the court a request to have the record expunged. If the court does order the expungement, the record of the deferred judgment would be placed on a separate list. 


Governor’s pardons in Iowa Criminal Convictions


While there is no other way to obtain an expungement if your charge doesn’t fit one of the above qualifications, you may still request the Governor to pardon the crime. The Governor’s office website has an application to fill out to apply for a pardon. It’s worth noting here that pardons are extremely rare and typically involve instances where court proceedings were unjust or improper.  

Should the Governor issue a pardon, the pardon doesn’t remove the record of that crime. The sole effect of the pardon is a note on the online docket that shows a pardon was granted. The record will remain. 


Does expungement affect my record? 


Even if a case has been expunged, the record still exists (though it can’t be seen by the public). The record remains on a list available to courts, prosecutors and law enforcement. Furthermore, if someone has a new criminal charge, the courts, prosecutors and law enforcement involved in the case will know about the expunged record and can cause the following things to happen: 

  • A higher level of crime to be charged 
  • A higher level of supervision before/during/after trial 
  • Harsher sentencing. 



Having a criminal record can make life very difficult. Finding a job, getting an apartment or loan, or going to college can become almost impossible. Iowa and federal rules require employers and landlords to look at multiple factors when renting or hiring but these rules aren’t always followed. Getting an expungement can provide peace of mind, allowing you to be considered without the record from your past.  


Disclaimer: The information provided on this blog is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject matter. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. Each individual's legal needs are unique, and these materials may not be applicable to your legal situation. Always seek the advice of a competent attorney with any questions you may have regarding a legal issue. Do not disregard professional legal advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this blog.


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