Code of the District of Columbia

§ 16–802. Sealing of criminal records on grounds of actual innocence.

(a) A person arrested for or charged with the commission of a criminal offense pursuant to the District of Columbia Official Code or the District of Columbia Municipal Regulations whose prosecution has been terminated without conviction may file a motion with the Clerk at any time to seal all of the records of the arrest and related court proceedings on grounds of actual innocence.

(b) The burden is on the movant to establish that:

(1) The offense for which the person was arrested or charged did not occur; or

(2) The movant did not commit the offense.

(c) If the motion is filed within 4 years after the prosecution has been terminated, the movant must satisfy the burden described in subsection (b) of this section by a preponderance of the evidence.

(d) If the motion is filed more than 4 years after the prosecution has been terminated, the movant must satisfy the burden described in subsection (b) of this section by clear and convincing evidence.

(e) In determining such motions, the court may, but is not required to, employ a rebuttable presumption that the movant is not entitled to relief if the court finds that the government has been substantially prejudiced in its ability to respond to the motion by the delay in its filing, unless the movant shows that the motion is based on grounds which the person could not have raised by the exercise of reasonable diligence before the circumstances prejudicial to the government occurred.

(f) An acquittal does not establish a presumption that the movant is innocent or entitled to relief pursuant to this section.

(g) A person whose conviction has been vacated pursuant to § 22-4135(g)(2), and whose subsequent prosecution is terminated without conviction, may file a motion with the Clerk pursuant to subsection (a) of this section or any other provision of law.

(h) A person who is found to be actually innocent pursuant to this section or § 22-4135(g)(3) shall be entitled to the following relief with respect to such count or counts:

(1)(A) The Court shall summarize in the order the factual circumstances of the challenged arrest and any post-arrest occurrences it deems relevant, and, if the facts support such a conclusion, shall rule as a matter of law that the movant did not commit the offense for which the movant was arrested or that no offense had been committed.

(B) A copy of the order shall be provided to the movant or his or her counsel.

(C) The movant may obtain a copy of the order at any time from the Clerk of the Court, upon proper identification, without a showing of need.

(2)(A) In a case involving co-defendants in which the Court orders the movant’s records sealed, the Court may order that only those records, or portions thereof, relating solely to the movant be sealed.

(B) The Court shall order that the movant’s name be redacted to the extent practicable from records that are not sealed. The Court may make an in camera inspection of these records in order to make this determination.

(C) The Court need not order the redaction of references to the movant that appear in a transcript of court proceedings involving the co-defendants.

(D) After references to the movant have been redacted as provided for in this paragraph, the Court shall order those records relating to co-defendants returned to the prosecutor or the Clerk.

(3) The Court shall not order the redaction of the movant’s name from any published opinion of the trial or appellate courts that refer to the movant.

(4) The Court shall:

(A) Order the prosecutor, any relevant law enforcement agency, and any pretrial, corrections, or community supervision agency to seal any records that identify the movant as having been arrested, prosecuted, or convicted;

(B) Order the prosecutor to arrange for any computerized record of the movant’s arrest, prosecution, or conviction to be eliminated except for a restricted-access file that would permit the prosecutor and law enforcement agencies to retrieve sealed records if ordered to do so by the Court; and

(C) Expressly allow the prosecutor and law enforcement agencies to maintain a publicly available record so long as it is not retrievable by the identification of the movant.

(5) The Court shall order the prosecutor, any relevant law enforcement agency, and any pretrial, corrections, or community supervision agency to file a certification with the Court within 90 days of an order to seal the records that, to the best of its knowledge and belief, all references that identify the movant as having been arrested, prosecuted, or convicted have been sealed.

(6) The Court shall:

(A) Order the Clerk to collect all Court records pertaining to the movant’s arrest, record, or conviction and cause to be purged any computerized record;

(B) Expressly allow the Clerk to maintain a record so long as the record is not retrievable by the identification of the movant; and

(C) Order the Clerk to file under seal all Court records retrieved pursuant to this section, together with the certifications filed by the prosecutor, any relevant law enforcement agency, and any pretrial, corrections, or community supervision agency pursuant to this subsection, within 7 days after receipt of such records.

(7) The Clerk shall place the records ordered sealed by the Court in a special file, appropriately and securely indexed in order to protect its confidentiality. Unless otherwise ordered by the Court, the Clerk shall reply in response to inquiries concerning the existence of records which have been sealed pursuant to this chapter that no records are available.

(i) The effect of relief pursuant to this section shall be to restore the movant, in the contemplation of the law, to the status he or she occupied before being arrested or charged. No person as to whom such relief has been granted shall be held thereafter under any provision of law to be guilty of perjury or otherwise giving a false statement by reason of failure to recite or acknowledge his or her arrest, or charge, or trial in response to any inquiry made of him or her for any purpose.


(May 5, 2007, D.C. Law 16-307, § 2(b), 54 DCR 868.)

Section References

This section is referenced in § 16-806.