Currently there is a high level of unemployment in South Africa and people are finding it increasingly difficult to procure employment, especially if they have a criminal record, which is usually a deterrent for a potential employer.

Of course criminal records exist for a reason, but what about a person who committed a petty crime when they were younger and have since been rehabilitated? In such a situation, the ability to erase a criminal record would be their best chance of becoming employable.

Criteria for expungement

The process to expunge one’s criminal record is set out in Section 271(A)-(D) of the Criminal Procedure Act 51 of 1977 (the Act).

The main criteria is that your conviction and sentencing must have been more than 10 (ten) years ago and if there was an option of a fine, such fine should not exceed R20,000.

The other criteria set out in the Act states that expungement is possible where:

  • you haven’t been sentenced and jailed for another crime in those 10 (ten) years, without the option of a fine;
  • you were sentenced for a minor crime or a politically motivated crime;
  • your conviction was based on your race; or
  • you were convicted of an offence which would no longer be an offence or a minor offence under the new Constitution.

The last two requirements are aimed at convictions under apartheid, which were unconstitutional and accordingly should not be recorded as criminal offences.

Disqualification from expungement

There are other criteria in the Act which could disqualify one from expungement of their criminal record, namely:

  • if you were convicted of a sexual offence against a child or a mentally-challenged person; or
  • you are in the National Register for sex offenders or the National Child Protection Register; or
  • you are convicted of a serious offence and imprisoned without the option of a fine.

Our Criminal Law team can assist you in all matters related to expungement of criminal records or related matters.

For Criminal Law expertise

Juan Smuts        

Henno Bothma 

Wesley Scheepers

Heynes Kotze    



The articles on these web pages are provided for general information purposes only. Whilst care has been taken to ensure accuracy, the content provided is not intended to stand alone as legal advice. Always consult a suitably qualified attorney on any specific legal problem or matter.