In Oregon, you must meet several requirements to be eligible to expunge (i.e. set aside) your criminal conviction. Oregon's expungement law can be found in ORS 137.225.
ORS 137.225 is certainly not a model of clarity. How long you have to wait before filing your motion depends on your criminal history. Some of the requirements only apply if you have been convicted of certain criminal convictions. Others apply regardless of your criminal record. Finally, certain convictions can almost never be expunged.
And for every rule, there is at least 1 or 2 exceptions.
Let's start with the basic rules and then we'll focus on the some of the more complicated rules and various exceptions.
Basic Eligibility Requirements
To be eligible to expunge your criminal conviction, you have to satisfy four basic (3) requirements.
1. There are no pending criminal charges against you
To be eligible for expungement in Oregon, you cannot have any pending criminal charges against you in any jurisdiction.
This means Oregon, Washington, any other state, or any other federal or tribal court.
Traffic infractions, administrative hearings, and civil lawsuits don't count. Only pending criminal charges will prevent you from filing a motion for expungement.
Example: You are all set to file a motion to expunge your Robbery in third degree conviction in Washington County. But days before you file your motion, your landlord in Beaverton files eviction proceedings against you. You can still proceed with your expungement motion because eviction proceedings are not criminal proceedings.
2. You have completed all the conditions of your criminal sentence
You cannot move for expungement in Oregon if you are still serving your criminal sentence. To be eligible, you must have done the following:
- Served all mandatory jail time
- Completed all recommended drug and alcohol treatment or domestic violence treatment (if applicable)
- Paid all fines, court costs, and restitution
I declared bankruptcy because I lost my job. Will the Court expunge my record?
Bankruptcy allows you to wipe away certain types of court fines and costs but not always. And bankruptcy does not eliminate restitution (i.e. court-ordered money that you to pay to the victim of your crime.
Alternatively, the judge may waive your court fines because you're indigent. Waived court fines, by definition, no longer exist, so waiver of your fines will definitely increase your expungement chances.
You could try to argue that ORS 137.225 doesn't specifically mention payment of court costs, so you are in the clear regardless. But that is a risky argument. The statute uses the language “fully complied” with the sentence, and most judges will conclude that costs and fines are part of the sentence, just like serving jail time and completing treatment are part of your sentence.
3. You have to wait at least 3 years before filing your expungement motion
Under ORS 137.225, you must wait at least three (3) years from the date of your conviction before you can file an expungement motion.
The 3-year clock starts at the “date of the pronouncement of judgment,” (the term used in the statute), but this term really just means the date you were convicted.
Example: You were convicted of theft in the second degree in Marion County Circuit Court on June 14, 2018. On June 12, 2021, you file a motion to expunge this conviction. The Court will deny your motion because less than three (3) years have elapsed since you were convicted.
4. You have not been convicted of a criminal offense in the last 10 years
The Court will automatically deny your expungement motion if you have been convicted of any new criminal offense within 10 years of filing your motion.
Example #1: You were convicted of unlawful possession of heroin in Jackson County Circuit Court in 2004. In 2012, you pleaded guilty to Burglary in the second degree in Multnomah County. In 2013, you file a motion to expunge your heroin conviction in Jackson County. You cannot expunge your conviction because you were convicted of a new crime within the past 10 years.
Example #2: You were convicted of Assault in the third degree in Deschutes County in 2004. In 2008, you were convicted of DUI in Clackamas County. In 2020, you file a motion to expunge your assault conviction in Deschutes County.
You are eligible to expunge your conviction. Why? Even though you committed a new crime (DUI) only 4 years after your assault conviction, you have been crime-free for over 10 years (between 2008 and 2020). The time period that matters is the time between your “new” conviction and your motion. It is not the time between your “old” conviction and “new” conviction.
I pleaded no contest to a crime. Does this count as a conviction?
Under Oregon law, a no contest plea (also known as a plea of nolo contendere) is legally equivalent to a conviction. This is because a defendant who pleads no contest gives up her right to go to trial and gives up most of the same rights as a defendant who pleads guilty.
I pleaded guilty to a city municipal code violation. Does this count as a conviction?
Under ORS 137.225, you cannot expunge your conviction if you have been committed of another “criminal offense” within 10 years of filing your motion.
The Oregon courts have made clear that an “offense” includes not just crimes but violations, which include local city violations such as public urination.
Example: You were convicted of unlawfully delivering marijuana in Jackson County Circuit Court in 2019. In 2020, you plead no contest to public urination, a violation of the Eugene municipal code. Later that year, you file your expungement motion. The Court will deny your motion because you committed an offense within the past 10 years.
5. You have not been convicted of certain serious offenses
Certain felonies and other serious offenses can never be expunged—regardless of how much time has passed since you were convicted.
This long list of crimes includes virtually all Class A felonies, most sex crimes, many Class B felonies, a few Class C felonies, and DUI and other driving-related offenses.