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Staff file photo / One person exits the Hamilton County-Chattanooga Courts Building in 2016.

The Hamilton County Criminal Court Clerk's Office is about to make it easier to get records expunged for both the criminal and sessions courts, beginning Jan. 3.

"This one-stop shop for expungements allows the citizens of Hamilton County to go to one location to get their cases expunged. It's also a continued effort by my office to make things more efficient for the folks of Hamilton County," said Vince Dean, the criminal court clerk.

(READ MORE: Hamilton County Judge Don Poole retires; Patterson announces candidacy)

The sessions court sees upwards of 1,200 people a month who seek to get their records expunged. They currently have to go to two different locations in order to do so. By merging the offices that deal with the sessions court cases with the offices that handle criminal court cases, Dean aims to clear up some confusion, ease stress and make it easier for people to get help in eliminating charges on their records and move on with their lives.

"We want to make it easier and more user-friendly for the general public," he said. "We want to be there and try to help them get their life back."

(READ MORE: Hamilton County General Sessions Judge Alex McVeagh seeks re-election)

According to the Tennessee State Courts website, eligibility for getting a record expunged includes:

— Having charges dismissed.

— Receiving a "no true bill" ruling by a grand jury, which occurs when the grand jury does not find enough evidence to warrant charges.

— Being arrested and released without being charged.

— Going to trial and receiving a "not guilty" verdict.

Once a case is expunged, a letter is provided as evidence that the records were cleared. The letter cannot be re-issued, since records are deleted from the court system as well as from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation database. However, the state has no control over any other agencies that might have records of cases that have been expunged in Tennessee.

(READ MORE: Vince Dean to seek Hamilton County Criminal Court Clerk post)

Contact La Shawn Pagan at lpagan@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6476. Follow her on Twitter @LaShawnPagan.

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