If you’ve had difficulty finding work, finding housing, or receiving public benefits, you may have a criminal record that needs to be expunged. If your criminal record qualifies, you should contact a Jefferson County criminal defense lawyer at once to begin the expungement process.
Criminal convictions can have serious consequences that are arbitrary, unreasonable, and entirely unrelated to any crime or criminal conviction. A misdemeanor conviction for a non-violent crime, for example, could show up in background checks for the rest of your life.
Some of the people who want to expunge a criminal record do not qualify under Missouri law. Yet others who do qualify might not realize they are eligible for expungement. Who can have a criminal record expunged in Missouri? What are the benefits of expungement?
If you’ll keep reading, these questions will be answered, you’ll learn what it takes to expunge a criminal record in Missouri, and you’ll also learn why the advice and guidance of an experienced expungement lawyer to clear your record is essential if you are seeking to have a criminal record expunged.
How Does Expungement Benefit You?
In Missouri, expungement is the process of closing the records of a conviction, a guilty plea, or an arrest so that the record cannot be seen by the public and will not appear on most background checks.
When a criminal record is expunged, only certain parties – such as law enforcement agencies and judges – will be able to access the record. In most cases, expungement let’s you answer “no” when employers ask if you have been convicted of a crime. However, there are exceptions.
Even after expungement, a conviction must be disclosed if you apply for employment with an emergency services provider, a police agency, a bank, credit union, insurance company, or with any employer who is required by law to exclude applicants with criminal convictions.
Which Criminal Records in Missouri Cannot Be Expunged?
As mentioned previously, some of the people who want to expunge a criminal record do not qualify. Records for the following crimes cannot be expunged in Missouri:
- a violent Class A felony
- any dangerous felony or any felony that involved a death
- any crime that may be penalized with mandatory sex offender registration
- driving while intoxicated (DWI)
- domestic assault
There are also some restrictions on expunging driving offenses that involve alcohol and driving offenses that involve persons with commercial drivers licenses.
To Have a Criminal Record Expunged, What’s the First Step?
The first step toward expunging a criminal record is determining if you qualify to have your record expunged. If you do, or if you’re not sure – and before you take any other step – discuss the matter with a Jefferson County expungement attorney.
Missouri law permits the expungement of the arrest and conviction records of many misdemeanors and non-Class A felonies. The waiting periods for having records expunged are:
- for arrest records, three years from the date of the arrest
- for misdemeanor conviction records, three years from the date of the conviction
- for felony conviction records, seven years from the date of the conviction
In Missouri, you may obtain a maximum of two expungements for misdemeanor offenses or ordinance violations and no more than one expungement for a felony offense over a lifetime.
How Are Arrest Records Expunged?
In Missouri, an arrest record may be expunged for either of two reasons:
- An arrest record may be expunged if a court finds that the arrest was based on “false information.”
- A non-alcohol-related misdemeanor driving arrest record may be expunged if the charge was dismissed or the defendant was acquitted, provided the defendant was not holding a commercial driver’s license and operating a commercial vehicle when the arrest occurred.
Arrest records may be expunged provided that the individual has no prior or subsequent felony or misdemeanor convictions and there is no pending civil action arising from the incident.
Can DWI Records Be Expunged?
Records related to DWI offenses may be expunged only in these narrow circumstances:
- The DWI was a first offense.
- It was a misdemeanor charge or a city or county ordinance violation.
- Ten or more years have elapsed since the conviction or guilty plea.
- You haven’t been convicted or charged with a subsequent alcohol-related traffic offense.
- You weren’t convicted of driving a commercial vehicle while intoxicated.
How is a Criminal Conviction Record Expunged?
If your conviction record is eligible for expungement, your attorney will complete a Petition for Expungement and file it in the county where your case was handled. All agencies with a copy of the record will have a chance to object to your expungement petition.
After your attorney files your expungement petition, those agencies have thirty days to file objections. A court must schedule a hearing within sixty days of receiving an objection, or if there is no objection, within the first thirty days after the thirty-day period for filing objections.
What Does the Court Consider in an Expungement Hearing?
At your expungement hearing, these are the questions that must be answered:
- Have you met the requirements for having the record expunged?
- Were you found guilty of any other misdemeanor or felony in the interim time period?
- Have you satisfied all obligations, like fines, related to the record being expunged?
- Do you have any criminal charges or other legal matters pending?
- Have your habits and conduct shown that you are not a threat to public safety?
- Is your expungement consistent with the public welfare and the interests of justice?
If the court determines that you meet all of these criteria and that you are otherwise eligible to have your criminal record expunged, the court will enter an order of expungement.
What Else Should You Know About Expungement in Missouri?
Missouri juvenile records may be expunged if the individual has reached his or her 18th birthday, and if the court finds that it is in the best interest of the individual that the juvenile record be expunged.
Expungement may restore your right to buy or own a firearm under Missouri law, but your right to buy or own a firearm may still be restricted by federal law.
If you need to have an arrest, plea, or conviction record expunged, the right Jefferson County criminal defense lawyer will determine if you qualify, explain the steps you must take, and guide you through the process. If you qualify, the time to begin the expungement process is now.