How can I clear my criminal history record if 20 years ago I was charged with conspiracy to traffic cocaine and marijuana but the charges were dropped?

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How can I clear my criminal history record if 20 years ago I was charged with conspiracy to traffic cocaine and marijuana but the charges were dropped?

All charges were dropped (Nolle Proseque). I was told by my attorney that I would not have a criminal record because all charges were dropped. 12 years later because of a work background check I find out I have a criminal record. More years have passed and once again I’m dealing with this charge because of a work related background check. I have not other criminal history. I would like to know if I can have this expunged from my records or discuss other options.

Asked on March 8, 2014 under Criminal Law, New Mexico


FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

Record sealing is the practice of sealing or, in some cases, destroying court records that would otherwise be publicly accessible as public records. The term is derived from the tradition of placing a seal on specified files or documents that prevents anyone from reviewing the files without receiving a court order. The modern process and requirements to seal a record and the protections it provides vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, and even between civil and criminal cases.

Generally, record sealing can be defined as the process of removing from general review the records pertaining to a court case. However, the records may not completely disappear and may still be reviewed under limited circumstances; in most instances it requires a court order to unseal records once they are sealed. In the United States some states order records to be destroyed after they are sealed. Once a record is sealed, in some states, the contents are legally considered never to have occurred and are not acknowledged by the state.

The public policy of record sealing balances the desire to free named citizens from the burdens caused by the information contained in state records while maintaining the state's interest in the preservation of records that may be beneficial to the state or other citizens.[1]

In many cases, if you seal your record, you gain the legal right to deny or fail to acknowledge anything to do with the arrest and the legal proceedings from the case itself.[2]

Records are commonly sealed in a number of situations:

  • Sealed birth records (usually for so-called closed adoption, in which the birthparents' identity is usually anonymous)
  • Juvenile criminal records may be sealed
  • Other types of cases involving juveniles may be sealed, anonymized, or pseudonymized ("impounded"); e.g., child sex offense or custody cases
  • Cases using witness protection information may be partly sealed
  • Cases involving trade secrets
  • Cases involving state secrets


Answer: Since there is no criminal conviction, there is nothing to expunge. You will need to seal the criminal file via court moiton. I suggest that you consult with a criminal defense attorney in your locality for help. One can be found on

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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