Expungement is the legal process by which an individual’s criminal record is treated as if they no longer have one. Every state has different limits and options governing expungement.
However, every state allows some type of expungement or record sealing for juvenile offenses. Although the rules may vary by state, eligibility for expungement will usually include:
- Application for expungement in writing with the court where the conviction occurred;
- The individual’s original sentence must be served and completed;
- The applicant is not facing any new or additional criminal charges.
Generally, the burden is on the individual who is applying for the expungement to show that their probation or other requirements for expungement have been completed. Additionally, the application for expungement will usually only cover one case.
If an individual wants to have multiple charges or records expunged, they will have to file separate applications. Once all of the required forms and documents are submitted for the expungement request, the court will review the petition and determine if the individual is eligible for expungement.
It is important to note that individual courts may have additional procedures or policies for expungement.
Can You Expunge Misdemeanors From Your Criminal Record?
A misdemeanor crime is typically defined as a less serious crime that is punishable by a sentence of less than one year in a county jail and not in a prison facility as well as criminal fines. In general, most misdemeanor convictions can be expunged from an individual’s criminal record.
Examples of commonly expunged misdemeanor convictions include:
- Traffic crimes, especially first-time drunk driving or DUI charges;
- Various non-violent crimes;
- Simple theft-related crimes;
- Trespassing and vandalism;
- Resisting arrest.
A misdemeanor expungement can help clear an individual’s criminal record. It cannot, however, undo certain penalties, for example, restoring lost gun ownership privileges or excusing the individual from penalties that involve registration on a sex offender list.
Can You Expunge a Felony From Your Criminal Record?
A felony crime is defined as a more serious crime than a misdemeanor that is punishable by more than one year in a prison facility, not a jail, as well as higher criminal fees or fines. It is more difficult to expunge a felony crime than most misdemeanor crimes.
There are some states that do not allow expungement of felonies. In other states, only certain felonies are eligible for expungement.
In general, the more serious the felony conviction, the lower the chance that it can be expunged from an individual’s record. Typically, serious crimes are associated with longer sentences and more substantial criminal fines than less serious crimes.
Less serious felonies, including non-violent crimes such as drug possession, are more likely to be eligible for expungement. Serious crimes that are not usually eligible to be expunged include:
- Sexual crimes, such as rape or sexual assault;
- felonies involving victims younger than 18 years old;
- other similar crimes.
Generally, a federal conviction for a felony cannot be expunged. In some cases, a pardon may be granted in connection with a federal felony conviction. However, this usually only occurs under very limited circumstances.
How Does Expungement Work in Arizona?
In Arizona, there is an expungement process for criminal charges, meaning that the criminal conviction in an individual’s record will be erased or destroyed.
Expungement also prohibits the general public from accessing the criminal file or its related information stored in computers. However, the conviction may still be accessed by certain parties for future criminal prosecutions.
What Are the Circumstances for Expungement?
Adult records and well as juvenile records may be expunged in Arizona. The courts will usually allow more juvenile records to be expunged than adult records.
Adult convictions that qualify for expungement include:
- The defendant’s criminal charges have been dismissed;
- The defendant was acquitted at their trial;
- The individual’s conviction was overturned on appeal or subjected to post-conviction relief with a final mandate being issued.
A defendant who provided a DNA sample for the purposes of criminal investigation may petition to have their DNA profile removed from Arizona identification authorities. A minor who has been sentenced to probation may have their record expunged if they successfully complete their probation and were younger than 18 years old at the time of the crime.
What Is the Expungement Process?
In order for an individual to obtain an expungement, they must file a petition with the superior court in the county where they were convicted. The petitioner will have to submit all of the required documents and pay a filing fee.
Once the court has ordered an expungement, those records cannot be accessed. References to the conviction will generally omit the details and will only show that the record was expunged.
How Much Does Expungement Cost?
In Arizona, it is free for an individual to file a Motion to Seal. Legislators in this state did not want the cost to be a barrier to filing this type of motion.
How Long Does Expungement Take?
In general, the expungement process can take anywhere from one to six months. There are new laws in Arizona as of 2023 that apply to expungement.
An individual who wants to petition for expungement must complete the state-imposed waiting period, including:
- Class 2 or Class 3 felony: 10 years;
- Class 4, 5, or 6 felony: 5 years;
- Class 1 misdemeanor: 3 years;
- Lower-grade misdemeanors: 2 years.
If the individual has any prior felony convictions on their record, it will add an additional five years to the required waiting period. Suppose the individual has two or more convictions on their record. In that case, they can not request the record to be sealed until the required period of time has passed for each of the convictions.
There may also be other types of post-conviction relief available, for example:
- Writ of habeas corpus: A habeas corpus petition allows an individual who is detained to be released after challenging the constitutional basis of their incarceration;
- In a habeas corpus proceeding, the prosecution has to prove that the defendant should be incarcerated under federal laws or state laws;
- Clemency: Clemency allows an offender to be forgiven of their charges after they are convicted. Clemency typically involves the restoration of the inmate’s civil rights upon their release, for example, their right to vote or own a gun;
- It is typically filed with the state’s governor;
- Commutation: Commutation is similar to clemency with the exception that the individual’s civil rights may not be restored even if they are released from prison; and
- Pardon: Individuals who are incarcerated in a federal prison facility may petition for a pardon, which would absolve them from their legal charges. Pardons are rare and typically are difficult to obtain because they require approval from the President of the United States.
Should I Consult an Attorney?
If you have any questions regarding expunging a conviction in Arizona, it is important to consult with an Arizona expungement lawyer. Your lawyer can represent you in court and help you file all of the required paperwork. Your attorney will be able to present your case to the court in a more favorable way you may be able to, which can give you a better chance at expungement.