South African Expungement Process Overview

This is a quick overview of expungement law in South Africa, and what an expungement can do for your life. You can use the blue links directly below to jump to a desired section or scroll down and start reading from the beginning.

What is the new law?
What is expungement?

Why is expungement important?
Who is eligible for expungement?
What if you have several convictions?
What is our expungement process?
What will expungement do for you?
How many applications are successful?
What if I have already applied?
How long does it take?
What other options do I have?

What is the new law?

In 2008 there was an amendment to sections 2 and 3 of the South African Criminal Procedure Act (51 of 1977) known as the Criminal Procedure Amendment Act (65 of 2008). This new law came into effect on the 6th May 2009.  In summary, the new law says that those convicted of a minor offence, determined by the type of sentence imposed, 10 or more years ago, qualify for the expungement of criminal records. The sentence must have been a suspended jail term, correctional supervision or a fine. View Criminal Procedure Amendment Bill of 2008 >>

According to a report in The Herald (7 July 2014), only 23,853 South Africans have taken advantage of the Criminal Procedure Amendment Act since 2009.
"If you think of all the people convicted over the last 20 years, 23,853 is really a very small number," Community Law Centre project head Lukas Muntingh said in the report.

An EXPERIENCED expungement firm is essential to your SUCCESS

Fresh Start Law Centre has successfully helped thousands of clients put their past behind them by expunging their criminal records. Yours is next!

What is criminal record expungement?

Expunging your criminal record in South Africa is the process of applying the Department of Justice under the South African Expungement of a Criminal Record in terms of the Criminal Procedure Act, 1977 (Act 51 of 1997). If the expungement application is granted you will no longer be considered convicted of the crime, and your criminal record will be permanently removed off the national criminal register. Subsequently, once the conviction is expunged by the Department of Justice you can truthfully tell employers, your family, and all other interested parties that you have not previously been convicted of a crime. Furthermore, the expunged conviction will no longer show on employer background checks.

Criminal Record Updating After Expungement:

The national criminal register used for employment background checks and formal Police Clearance Certificates, will be updated within approx. 21 working days after the expungement is complete. With the Urgent Priority option, this process is reduced to 1-2 business days.

Why is expungement important in South Africa?

Until fairly recently with advent of the internet and the subsequent development of easy access to the national criminal register, a person's criminal history was unlikely to be discovered by a potential employer, or anybody else for that matter.

Even though criminal records were always a matter of public record, most employers did not devote the time to manually sifting through stacks of paper criminal records at the local courthouse. Today a thorough background check can be done with the stroke of keyboard, and these background checks are used by potential employers, potential landlords, potential lenders, and anybody else that wants to get a grasp on your history before initiating a relationship with you. If anybody runs a background check on you after the expungement process has been completed, your criminal history will not appear on the report. Consequently, in this tough job market it is more important than ever to address your criminal history. Expungement relief gives you a "fresh start" in life, allowing you to forget the past and embrace the future.

Who is eligible for expungement in South Africa?

Following the amendment in 2008, section 271B provides the list of sentences in respect of which an application may be made for the expungement of the record after a period of ten years has lapsed after the date of conviction and the person has not been sentenced to a period of imprisonment without the option of a fine (not exceeding R20,000). A person convicted and sentenced as set out below may apply for the expungement of their criminal record.

Persons who had received the following sentences are eligible:

  1. The postponement of the passing of sentence in terms of section 297(1)(a) where the persons was discharged in terms of 297(2) or the person was not called back to appear before the court
    in terms of section 297(3).
  2. A sentence discharging the person with a caution or reprimand provided for in section 297(1)(c).
  3. A fine only, but not exceeding R20,000.
  4. A sentence of corporal punishment before corporal punishment was declared unconstitutional.
  5. A sentence of imprisonment with the option of a fine but not exceeding R20,000.
  6. Any sentence of imprisonment that was wholly suspended.
  7. Correctional supervision as provided for in section 276(1)(h) or (i).
  8. Periodical imprisonment.

Furthermore, over the period of the last ten (10) years, a person should not have been sent to prison for another offence without the option of a fine (which can't exceed R20,000) otherwise the application will be declined.

If all your convictions meet the above criteria your whole criminal record will be expunged.

What if you have several convictions?

As long as each conviction meets the criteria and you haven't been sentenced to prison in the last ten (10) years, you are eligible to apply to have each of your multiple convictions removed from your criminal record for the same single cost of R1,895.

What is our expungement process?

A dedicated account manager will handle everything for you from start to finish. We will always be here to answer any questions you might have along the way and we will keep you constantly updated on the progress of your case. We pride ourselves not only on providing top notch expungement legal services to all South African residents, but also on providing impeccable customer service. Below is a general outline of our process:

  1. You will complete the online sign up and payment process. Do this now >>
  2. An online account will be established for you during the sign up process wherein you can view your case details See example >>, monitor the progress of your case and communicate with us securely via online messaging. This allows you to have 24/7 access to the details of your case.
  3. We will fully prepare the initial application and all required supporting documents using our expertise in South African expungement laws.
  4. We will file all completed documents with the Department of Justice. All filing fees are included in our fixed fee.
  5. The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development’s director-general will decide whether to grant expungement based on the application.
  6. If expungement is granted (within 12 weeks or less from application), we will send you an officially signed order by the Department of Justice declaring that your record(s) has been expunged.
  7. Welcome to YOUR Fresh Start :)

NOTE: We will not file any applications with the Department of Justice until full payment for the service has been received and all supporting documentation is provided.

Our simple 4 step process:


What Are The Benefits Of Getting Your Criminal Record Expunged?

Other then the mental relief one can experience with a criminal record expungement there are many tangible benefits that an expungement offers:

  1. Removes the conviction(s) from your criminal record.
  2. Your past conviction(s) will not show up in the police clearance databases used for background checks and Police Clearance Certificates.
  3. You can truthfully, and legally, answer "NO" on job applications when asked if you have ever been convicted of a crime.
  4. You can greatly increase your earning capacity by becoming eligible for more employment opportunities.
  5. You become eligible for many types of professional licences, certificates and certain visa applications.
  6. You can tell friends and family that you have not been convicted of a crime.
  7. You have the satisfaction of forgetting the past for good and moving forward into a more positive future.

How many applications are successful?

We've cleared over 5,000 criminal records with a 99.95% success rate.
Combined with our 100% money back guarantee and 105% lowest price guarantee, there really is no risk to you.

What if I have already applied?

We cater for both new and existing applications. Everyday we hear from customers who have used a different expungement firm and not getting results. Read Peter's story >>
You may of attempted the process on your own and gone directly to the Department of Justice and now it's been 6 months.

Whatever the situation, we can take over your case. After payment of R1,895 and one signed Power of Attorney document (which you can scan and email back to us) we'll immediately take over your case and get the results you were looking for.

In cases where the previous expungement firm hasn't applied correctly and we need to start the case from the beginning (which we'll know in a matter or days or even hours) we'll waste no time resubmitting a new application on your behalf (the correct way:) at no additional cost.

Note: The Department of Justice requires a recent Police Clearance Certificate included in the application to expunge your criminal record. If we need to resubmit a new application we'll need this document (which we can obtain on your behalf in record time (5-10 days) for the additional cost of R295).

Contact us today and consider it expunged!

How long does it take?

"We remove criminal records faster than any other company in South Africa".

To obtain an Initial Clearance Certificate:
Fresh Start Law Centre: 5-10 days (that's 2 months faster)
The competition: 30-60 days

Application to remove your Criminal Record:
Fresh Start Law Centre: 12 weeks or less (that's 1-3 months faster)
The competition: 18-26 weeks

That means we'll have your criminal record removed almost half a year sooner and saving you thousands in legal fees.

You are truly receiving the fastest service at the lowest price. Guaranteed.

We utilize highly sophisticated systems to constantly track and monitor your application progress 24/7/365. You are immediately notified by your Dedicated Account Manager regarding the process and movement of your application at each and every stage. Furthermore, you will receive weekly email and SMS progress report notifications (opt-out available) and access to the member portal to view a real-time progress report.

Which other company can show you a snap shot of all their combined criminal record removal applications and progress?


What other options do I have?


Fresh Start Law Centre is the only firm in South Africa that specializes in all expungement cases.

If you were 18 years or younger when arrested, the waiting time is 5 years.

If your conviction isn't older than 10 years and it was an admission of guilt (I.e. you didn't appear before a magistrate), then we can apply immediately for a high court order to set it aside.

If your case has been withdrawn but it still comes up in a background check, we can have the case removed off your criminal record immediately.

If you were convicted for a serious crime, we can apply for a presidential pardon.

Do I qualify for any of these? Find out now >>

NEW! Common Q&A

Posted by Tom
Hi, I was convicted at the age of 17, how long do I need to wait?
Posted by admin
Hi Tom, thank you for your question. If you were under the age of 18 years old when convicted the waiting period is 5 years and not 10 years. It's true that this only applies if you committed a schedule 1 or 2 offence, however our stats show that over 99% of juvenile cases are minor, thus, if it's been 5 years our expert team will first pull a high speed criminal record check on your name and then immediately proceed with the removal of your criminal record.
Kind Regards,
Fresh Start Law Centre
Posted by Govender
I have the usual story of been arrested on a Friday night for a DUI. I paid a fine at the SAPS and they let me go. Is this an AOG?
Posted by admin
Hi Mr. Govender,
Thank you for your question.
This certainly is an admission of guilt and results in a criminal record (conviction) on your name.
For minor offences the police are able to offer you immediate freedom on condition you sign an admission of guilt and sometimes pay a fine.
For almost 100% of cases we find that the police did not follow the correct procedure in explaining your rights and advising you that admitting will result in a criminal record.
Fresh Start Law Centre is the only firm to successfully apply for high court orders to set these type of conviction aside, refund the fine and remove your criminal record completely (there is no waiting period, it could of happened last week or 4 years ago).

Therefore, if you did not appear/convicted before a magistrate/judge - we can remove your criminal record immediately.

Kind Regards,
Fresh Start Law Centre
Posted by AB
How long does it take to remove a criminal record?
Posted by admin
Hello AB,

Thank you for your question.

This depends on the type of criminal record.
Firstly, we obtain high speed criminal records within 5-10 business days (that's already 2 months faster).

Next, these are the standard timelines for each process (which are already 6-8 months faster in the industry):
Standard 10 year expungement: 12 weeks or less.
Case Awaiting Trial removal: 30-60 days.
Admission of Guilt removal: 30-60 days.
Presidential Pardon: 6-18 months.

You do have the option of -Urgent Priority- which will reduce the above economy timelines by 6-8 weeks.

Clear Police Clearance Certificates (after we've removed your criminal record) usually take 14-28 business days and with Urgent Priority, take 8-10 days.

In summary, we'll have your criminal record removed half a year sooner compared to the industry standard.

I hope this helps.
Kind Regards,
Fresh Start Law Centre
Posted by Lansdowne
Hi Fresh Start, every time I go for a job they tell me I have a criminal record. I've obtained 2 police clearance certificates in the past and it doesn't show anything. What is this?
Posted by admin
Hi Lansdowne,
Based on our expert opinion you have something called a "Case Awaiting Trial" on your name.
When you are arrested for a criminal charge, the police immediately put a black listing on your criminal record called a "Case Awaiting Trial" - this is used to alert the authorities (and private companies/recruitment agencies) that you have a pending case on your name.
Normally hidden from formal Police Clearance Certificates, it will appear on every other type of criminal check, specifically AFIS private checks used by potential employers.
The problem in South Africa is that, once the case has been withdrawn or won, the police fail to remove the black listing.
If it hasn't been removed within 2 weeks from winning the case, it's safe to say it will remain there for ever until you do something about it.
Fresh Start Law Centre is the only firm in South Africa to have these types of "Case Awaiting Trial" black listings removed successfully.
Through our extensive relationships with almost all of the 1200 police stations in South Africa, we'll ensure you case is updated with the Criminal Record Centre and removed completely.
The last thing you want is to be wrongfully accused of a crime you didn't commit and then have a "Criminal Record" remain on your name.
Kind Regards,
Fresh Start Law Centre
Posted by Sipho
What is a presidential pardon, do I need one and how long does it take?
Posted by admin
Hello Sipho, Thank you for your question. Firstly, Fresh Start Law Centre is the only law firm in South Africa to win at Presidential Pardons. A Presidential Pardon is an application directly to the President of South Africa to request the removal/expungement of your criminal record (see signed examples on the right of the page). It is required for serious crimes determined by the sentence you received (I.e. if you received a direct prison sentence without the option of a fine or if you were fined R20,001 or more). Depending on the severity and number of convictions, it takes on average between 6-18 months. In many instances we find a technicality in the classification of the sentence type on your criminal record and have it removed within 12 weeks or less. Kind Regards, Fresh Start Law Centre