Having a criminal conviction on your record can cause many problems associated with obtaining employment, professional licensing, and the right to vote. Even when a criminal case does not result in a formal conviction, the record of the arrest and the criminal prosecution can sometimes remain which can cause similar issues.
Under specific circumstances, there are convictions and records of arrest which can be sealed so that they are off limits to everyone but law enforcement personnel. In other cases, a person’s criminal record may be eligible for a process known as expungement, wherein the criminal file is removed from public records completely.
The defining difference between record sealing and expungement is that the criminal records still “exist” if the records are sealed. The files and records are still there, but they cannot be accessed by employers and other such people. Generally speaking, it is standard procedure that a person’s juvenile criminal files are sealed once they turn 18 years old. However, they can sometimes still be accessed by court order.
Alternatively, expungement results in the actual deletion or erasing of criminal charges and arrest files. This is to the effect that they never occurred. It is important to note that certain charges may be more difficult to get expunged than others. An example of this would be how misdemeanor charges are generally more easily expunged than felony charges.
Additionally, laws governing criminal record sealing and expungement vary widely from state to state. Eligibility for these procedures depends on the type of crime involved as well. Generally speaking, the procedure is as follows:
- Apply for record sealing in writing with the court in which the conviction occurred;
- Serve the original sentence;
- Have no new charges to face; and
- Prove that probation requirements have been fulfilled.
What Are Missouri’s Expungement Laws?
In 2016, the Missouri Legislature passed Senate Bill 588 which considerably expanded the number of crimes which may be expunged. Additionally, the Bill detailed additional crimes that cannot be expunged. The law has been most recently updated through SBs 53 and 60 which took effect on Aug. 28, 2021.
Generally speaking, crimes that are ineligible for expungement in Missouri include, but may not be limited to:
- Class A felonies;
- Offenses that would require the violator to register as a sex offender;
- Felony offenses in which death was part of the offense;
- Felony assault offenses;
- Misdemeanor or felony offenses for domestic assault; and
- Felony conviction for kidnapping.
Before filing for an expungement, the violator must have:
- Paid off their fine;
- Completed their sentenced probation or parole; and
- Are three years out from their date to be eligible for a felony offense expungement, or have a one-year wait in
- order to be eligible for a misdemeanor offense, municipal offense, or infraction expungement.
In order to expunge a crime, you must file a petition in the court in the county where you were charged or found guilty of any offenses. The expungement petition can be downloaded here. You must also pay a $250 fee when filing for expungement; however, the judge may waive the fee if the petitioner is indigent, and therefore unable to pay.
The petition must include any entities that you believe may have records regarding the offenses, violations, and infractions that you detail in the petition. Once those named individuals have been served, the court “may accept evidence and hear testimony on, and may consider” criteria associated with each listed offense, violation, or infraction.
Defendants have 30 days after being served the petition in which to file objections, and the court must hold a hearing within 60 days after the filed objection. Alternatively, this may take place 30 days after defendants have been served when no objections are made.
If the court rules to expunge a conviction, you can legally maintain that you have not been convicted of the crime that was expunged. However, when granted an expungement, you must disclose any expunged offense when filling out certain applications. A Missouri attorney will be best suited to explaining to you which applications would require you to disclose that you have expunged offenses.
If an expungement petition is denied, you may re-file the petition in one year; or, you could also appeal the decision. Additionally, a violator could be granted more than one expungement, if that total number does not exceed more than one felony offense and two misdemeanors. Or, if they are ordinance violations that could have resulted in imprisonment.
What Else Should I Know About Expunging a Conviction Or Criminal Record In Missouri?
In the state of Missouri, most juvenile criminal records are confidential unless they involve a Class A felony or murder charge. However, you may request the court to expunge your juvenile records if you are at least 17 years old, and expungement would be in your best interest. If the court moves to expunge your juvenile record, the documents are destroyed.
Some specific examples of convictions that you may have expunged in Missouri include, but may not be limited to:
- Bad check offenses;
- Alcohol-related offenses;
- Disturbing the peace;
- Gambling; and
As previously mentioned, significant waiting periods apply. You must wait ten years for misdemeanor convictions, twenty years for felony convictions. You cannot have any subsequent convictions, and must have paid all court-ordered fees and restitution. Additionally, you must exhibit a history of good behavior and rehabilitation.
You may also expunge records that are related to a non-conviction. This may include charges that were:
To reiterate, you cannot seal or expunge arrest records associated with a serious or violent felony.
It is important to be aware of how the newer law shifts the burden of proof to the prosecutor in your claim. What this means is that if you meet the statutory requirements of the expungement law, your petition should be approved unless the prosecutor can show that it would not be in the public’s best interest. The prosecutor only has 30 days in which to object to your petition, and a hearing must be held in 60 days, as previously mentioned.
Missouri expungement law has determined that you may only expunge one felony and two misdemeanors in your lifetime. Additionally, expunged records will not be destroyed, and may be made available to law enforcement and other public agencies.
Do I Need An Attorney To Expunge a Conviction Or Criminal Record In Missouri?
If you would like to have a conviction or criminal record expunged in the state of Missouri, you will need to consult with an experienced Missouri criminal defense lawyer. An area attorney will be best suited to helping you understand Missouri’s most updated expungement laws, and what your legal options are under those laws. A local expungement lawyer can explain to you what the eligibility requirements are and how you should proceed.
Your criminal defense or expungement lawyer can guide you through the process of applying for expungement if you are eligible to do so. Additionally, they will also be able to represent you in court, as needed. If you have any questions regarding Missouri’s expungement laws and process, an attorney can answer those questions for you.