Expunging a Conviction in Mississippi

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 What Is the Benefit of "Expunging" a Criminal Record?

According to Mississippi expungement laws, an “expungement” is defined as a legal process that involves the removal or erasure of a specific criminal offense from one’s criminal record. 

In particular, Mississippi’s expungement statute allows for the expungement of convictions of certain misdemeanor crimes. It also applies to some types of felony offenses, and arrests wherein a suspect was released, the case against them was dismissed, or the charges against them were dropped. 

The laws and requirements for expungements can vary considerably from state to state. Accordingly, a crime that may be eligible for expungement in Mississippi, may not qualify for an expungement under the laws of a different state.

As such, it is very important that you consult with a lawyer who is familiar with the procedures and the laws that govern the expungement process in the state of Mississippi. Some counties may even have their own local guidelines.

One other important detail to note about Mississippi expungement laws is that the state does not permit a criminal defendant to remove a misdemeanor offense that involves a traffic violation from their criminal record.

However, due to criminal justice reform measures happening throughout the country, the law could potentially change within the next decade. This is yet another reason why it would be wise to retain a Mississippi expungement lawyer for guidance.

Sealing of Juvenile Criminal Records in Mississippi

The process of sealing or expunging a juvenile criminal record in the state of Mississippi is fairly simple when compared to the requirements for expunging an adult criminal record. Specifically, the Mississippi expungement statute provides that any person who was under 21 years of age when they committed and were convicted of a felony offense may petition the court for it to be removed from all public records. 

However, there are a few conditions that must be met before a person will be deemed eligible to have their juvenile criminal record expunged. Similar to adult criminal record expungements, a juvenile defendant must prove that they have successfully completed the terms of the sentence they received after being convicted.

In addition, only certain types of felonies may be removed from a juvenile criminal record in Mississippi. For instance, the state expungement laws do not permit sealing or expunging the following types of felony crimes:

  • Felonies classified as violent offenses;
  • Felonies that require a juvenile defendant to register as a sex offender; and
  • Felony offenses related to the distribution of a controlled substance (note that this particular offense may be eligible for an expungement based on the discretion of a court).

Expungement of Adult Criminal Records in Mississippi

As for adult criminal record expungement in Mississippi, this is permitted for persons who meet the state statutory requirements for the type of entry that they are attempting to have removed from their criminal record. 

In general, an adult criminal record may be expunged in Mississippi for the following types of entries:

  • Arrest records wherein the charges were dropped, dismissed, or resolved through a rehabilitation or pretrial diversion program; 
  • Misdemeanor crimes other than those associated with misdemeanor traffic violations; 
  • Felony convictions that do not involve violent crimes, distribution of drugs or controlled substances, and serious crimes of the sexual variety; and/or
  • Convictions that appear as a result of a clerical error (e.g., if a criminal defendant was acquitted of the criminal charges at trial).

Mississippi Felony Expungements

Only certain types of felony offenses are eligible for expungements in Mississippi. These include felonies crimes, such as:

  • Those based on false pretenses;
  • Felonies that amount to larceny;
  • Malicious mischief;
  • Offenses involving bad or fraudulent checks;
  • Possession of drug paraphernalia or controlled substances; and
  • Felony shoplifting.

In addition, a person may only petition to have a felony offense removed from their criminal record if they have completed all of the conditions of their sentence and it has been five years since the date that they completed their sentence. It should also be noted that a person can only petition to remove one felony offense from their criminal record.

However, in 2021, the Mississippi state legislature proposed a bill that would permit a person who was convicted of a felony crime to request expungement for up to five felonies on their criminal record if it is signed into law.

Mississippi Misdemeanor Conviction Expungements

In the state of Mississippi, an individual may request to have certain types of misdemeanor convictions expunged from their criminal record. The misdemeanor offense must not be one that involves a traffic violation. The individual requesting the expungement must also have been a first-time offender. The one exception to this rule is if the individual was convicted of two first-time misdemeanor crimes within the same case. 

An arrest record for a misdemeanor offense may also be removed from a person’s criminal record in Mississippi. The individual must demonstrate the same elements, namely, that they are a first-time offender and that their offense qualifies as the sort of misdemeanor crime that is eligible for removal.

Expunging Criminal Charges That Did Not Lead to a Conviction in Mississippi

In cases where a criminal charge did not lead to a conviction in Mississippi, an adult criminal defendant may petition the court to have it expunged from their criminal record. As discussed above, this can happen when:

  • The charges brought against an adult criminal defendant are dropped;
  • The criminal case against an adult criminal defendant are dismissed;
  • The adult criminal defendant is acquitted of the criminal charges at trial; and/or
  • The charges are resolved before trial through an alternative method or a rehabilitation program

Under the circumstances in the above list, most entries for criminal charges that did not lead to a conviction of a misdemeanor offense as well as some felonies may be eligible for expungement from an adult criminal record in Mississippi.

Associated Fees and Paperwork

As is the case in many other states, expungements of criminal records in Mississippi are not an automatic occurrence. Instead, a juvenile or an adult criminal defendant will need to file a petition for expungement, attend a court hearing, and obtain an order from the court that grants their petition for expungement. Briefly, a “petition for expungement” is a legal document that asks the court to remove a certain entry from a defendant’s criminal record.

After an individual determines that they are eligible for an expungement, they must file the appropriate forms for expungement in their local Mississippi district court. This may involve obtaining certain forms from that court, such as a Motion to Expunge, an Affidavit in Support of a Motion to Expunge, a Petition for Expungement of Record, and so forth. Mississippi does not specify the exact form in its statute. 

The standard filing fee for expungement is $150 under the state statute, plus the costs of hiring an attorney. Any future petitions for expungement that are unrelated to the original case will cost $85.00 pursuant to this statute. 

However, if an individual is requesting to have a particular drug crime expunged, they may not need to submit a petition or pay any filing fees. Again, this will only apply to some drug crimes and only if the individual has successfully completed their sentence.

After all of the forms have been submitted and all the filing fees have been paid in full, the district or municipal court will review the person’s petition and determine whether to approve or deny their request. The individual will need to attend their scheduled court hearing in which a judge will decide whether they have been rehabilitated or not. If so, the judge will issue an order for expungement. 

One last important note about the expungement process in Mississippi is that the petitioner will need to provide written notice to the local district attorney’s office ten days prior to their scheduled court hearing.

Implications of a Successful Expungement

A person who is successful in getting an entry removed or erased from their criminal record can gain many benefits from the expungement process. For one, their criminal record will appear to most persons (the one exception being law enforcement when necessary) as if they were never charged, convicted, and/or sentenced for the crime that is removed from their record in the first place.

As a result, this will make it easier for them to obtain a job or be approved for a loan. An individual can also answer any questions regarding the expunged offense in the negative.

For example, if a job or college application poses a question, such as whether the applicant has a criminal record, the applicant does not have to provide any information about the crime that was expunged from their criminal record. It also means that the employer or school should not be able to find the expunged conviction when they perform a background check on a candidate.

In other words, any criminal offense that was expunged from a person’s criminal record should not appear during a search of public records. However, the expunged entry will still appear during a search of nonpublic records. This means parties like law enforcement officers, district attorneys, and prosecutors will still be able to store, access, and view the original file.

In addition, the Mississippi Criminal Information Center will be permitted to retain a copy, but only for the purposes of determining whether a person is a first-time offender in a future legal proceeding if any should arise.

Finally, some other opportunities and changes that a successful expungement can lead to in one’s life include:

  • Being able to have their voting and gun ownership privileges restored;
  • Applying to postgraduate schools without the fear of having to disclose the expunged conviction;
  • Dissolving any obstacles initially posed by a juvenile crime committed when the person was a minor; and/or
  • Not having to live with the concerns of a landlord discovering the erased conviction during a background check and precluding them from renting an apartment. 

Do I Need a Mississippi Expungement Lawyer?

As previously mentioned, each state has its own laws and procedural requirements that specify both when and how a criminal defendant who was prosecuted in their state can go about having a conviction expunged from their criminal record. Thus, it may be in your best interest to consult with a local Mississippi expungement lawyer if you are looking to have a Mississippi conviction expunged from your criminal record.

A lawyer who has experience in handling expungements in the state of Mississippi will be able to help you navigate the process of expungement, such as ensuring that a court-approved request is complied with and filing any necessary legal documents to support your request for an expungement.

Your lawyer will also be able to provide legal representation at any related court hearings and can make sure that your rights and interests as a criminal defendant are protected. In addition, your lawyer will be able to address any concerns or questions you may have about the expungement process in Mississippi. Lastly, in the event that a mark on your criminal record is erroneous, your lawyer will be able to help you get that mark removed as well.

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