Requests for Expungement
(1) In Colorado, requests for expungement have been granted in the following separate instances: (1) where there was improper dissemination of a person's criminal records, (2) where arrests have been deemed illegal, and (3) where the harm to an individual's right to privacy outweighed the public interest in the retention of such records. Davidson v. Dill, 180 Colo. 123, 503 P.2d 157, 161 (Colo. 1972).
(2) In Alaska, even though the need to avoid or remedy a constitutional violation, such as the misuse of such information, enables a court to expunge, no such order can be issued without proof that a constitutional violation had actually occurred or was threatened. Journey v. State, 850 P.2d 663, 666 (Alaska Ct. App. 1993). Furthermore, "even upon proof of a past or imminent constitutional violation, an order to expunge would be justified only upon a further showing that less drastic remedies - such as limiting, regulating, or the enjoining misuse or improper dissemination of the disputed criminal records - could not cure or prevent the threatened harm." Id.
(3) In Vermont, where there is no constitutional error alleged, extreme necessity or exceptional circumstances must be proven in order to warrant expungement because, while courts possess such power, it remains narrow and should be used sparingly. State v. Motchnik, 149 Vt. 113, 539 A.2d 548, 548 (Vt. 1987). What rises to the level of an extreme case is where the harm that results to the person from maintaining the records outweighs the need to maintain them. Id. at 549.
Apart from statutory authority, most states recognize that courts have inherent authority to expunge a criminal record to correct a constitutional error or provide a remedy for an extreme or exceptional situation. See generally Judicial Expunction of Criminal Record of Convicted Adult, 11 A.L.R.4th 956 3[b].
In the context of expunging records, violations of an individual's constitutional rights typically involve the individual being denied due process or the severe infringement of his right to be let alone.