Many of us made foolish mistakes when we were younger. Some of those mistakes turn into nothing more than amusing stories told occasionally, but others end up on a criminal record.
Even though you are a changed individual and have learned from those mistakes, they may still haunt you. That is an unfortunate reality many people deal with today.
But is there a way to change that? Can you clear your criminal record and get a fresh start?
In this article, we will come up with the answers to those questions. Stick around and see what options are available to Arizona residents looking to finally clear their record after years of living with their earlier mistakes.
Why Should You Look into Clearing Your Criminal Record?
Before we dive deep into the topic of clearing criminal records, let’s first answer a simple question. Why do you even need to clear your criminal record?
As it turns out, there are numerous reasons why such a move makes a lot of sense for previous offenders. Let’s go over those reasons below.
More Employment Opportunities
Although applicants with a blemish on their criminal record are not automatically disqualified from seeking job opportunities, employers can still factor that into their calculations. That can sometimes feel unfair given how much you have grown as a person since making that mistake.
It is ultimately the employer’s call, though. That mark on your record may stick in their mind and end up being a reason why they opted to pass on hiring you.
Easier Entry into Low-Income Public Housing
Like employment opportunities, a mark on your criminal record might not disqualify you from being approved for low-income public housing. However, the presence of that mark can still be a determining factor in your case.
Admission to Colleges and Universities
Every year, students from all over the country contend for the few slots available at the most prestigious colleges and universities. Many of those educational institutions have high standards for admission.
Once again, a criminal record might not disqualify you from entering your school of choice. Even so, you are facing an uphill climb because they would compare that blemish to other applicants.
Restoration of Civil Rights
Being convicted of certain crimes in Arizona means that they could suspend some of your civil rights. Among those privileges could include your right to vote, your right to hold public office, and your right to possess a firearm.
You cannot take advantage of those privileges until you clear your criminal record.
Can You Clear Your Criminal Record in the State of Arizona?
Now that we know all the potential benefits that come from clearing a criminal record, we can turn our attention to the process itself. First off, let’s find out if such an action is even legal in the state of Arizona.
Here is the thing: Expunging your criminal record is not allowed in Arizona. If you were hoping that you could wipe away your earlier crime from your record, that cannot happen.
However, Arizona does offer alternatives to expungement. To be more specific, you can file a petition to either ask the court to make an entry on all records or ask the court to set aside a judgment on a prior conviction.
Entry on All Records
Let’s focus first on the process of petitioning the court to make an entry on all records. You are specifically asking the court to clarify your criminal record that you have been cleared of your previous charges.
There is an important caveat when it comes to this method of clearing your criminal record, though.
According to Arizona law, you are only eligible for this type of action if you were wrongfully arrested, indicted, or charged with a crime. The point of going down this route is to have it indicated on all records that they have cleared you of charges previously imposed upon you.
It is not only your criminal record that will be cleared by this method. Any court records, police records, or other documents held by other government agencies that relate to your earlier charges will also be altered to reflect your innocence.
Another advantage of having your record clarified is that officials will place limitations on who can access those old arrest records of yours. Law enforcement agencies will not be allowed to provide those records to anyone even after a request is made. The judge must first authorize them to give out that record before a third party can see it.
It is still not expungement per se, but this method does manage to conceal the blemishes on your criminal record. That should prove helpful when you are sending out work or school applications.
Technically, those old arrests are still on your record, but they do not carry the same stigma anymore. Law enforcement officials must treat that earlier arrest as if it never happened.
When Is Entry on All Records Granted?
As noted above, the court will only make a change to your records if you were wrongfully arrested, charged, or indicted. That is one requirement you must meet if you wish to clear your criminal record via this method.
The other requirement is related to how the judge views the potential merits of your petition. If the judge believes they can better serve justice by granting your petition, it will likely be accepted. Fail to meet that standard, and they can deny your petition.
Set Aside Judgment
In contrast to the petition to make an entry on all records, a petition requesting to set aside judgment is intended for those who have been convicted of a criminal offense.
So, what does it mean to have a judgment set aside?
The point of this action is to reflect the fact that you have paid your debt to society.
Once they grant your petition to set aside judgment, the court will note that you have successfully completed all the requirements of your prior conviction. Your record will now show that you finished your sentence and even paid fines if they were among your penalties.
An important thing to note here is that your record will not be purged even after this action is completed. If someone looks up your criminal record online, they will still see that prior conviction. Of course, the difference now is that your record also shows that you have done everything asked of you.
There are no restrictions placed on who can access your record even after getting the conviction set aside. Any potential employer or school administrator can still look up your record online and find that conviction.
Getting a conviction set aside is still worth it, though.
Some employers and schools may develop a more favorable opinion of you after seeing that your conviction has been set aside. Furthermore, you can also get your suspended civil rights back.
When Is a Set Aside Granted?
Several factors are considered by the court when deciding whether to grant a petitioner’s request to have a conviction set aside.
The court will first consider the status of the petitioner. They will look at the age of the petitioner at the time they were initially convicted. The court will also consider how well the petitioner has complied with the terms of their punishment.
Any prior convictions will also factor into the court’s calculus. Factors such as the nature of the crime and how much time has passed since the petitioner finished their sentence will also matter.
The court may also reach out to the victim who was on the receiving end of the petitioner’s criminal acts. What the victim has to say about the whole matter is of great importance.
There are numerous other factors relevant to the case that the court may weigh before making a final decision.
Who Are Ineligible to Have Their Criminal Records Cleared?
Both misdemeanor and felony convictions can be set aside. That means people who currently have blemishes on their criminal records can eventually have those cleared.
Crucially, though, not everyone is eligible to have their convictions set aside. Let’s discuss which convictions cannot be set aside in the state of Arizona.
Crimes with a Sexual Motivation
The presence of sexual motivation in your crime can be reason enough for the court to dismiss your petition to get the conviction set aside. If the court says that there was sexual motivation behind your actions, that means your pursuit of sexual gratification factored into why you committed a criminal act.
If that sexual motivation points to your offense, the court will not set it aside.
Crimes That Required a Defendant to Register as a Sex Offender
The law cannot set aside any criminal offense that requires the defendant to register as a sex offender. Examples of crimes where guilty parties must register as sex offenders include child molestation, sexual abuse of a minor, sexual exploitation of a minor, etc.
Crimes That Led to Serious Physical Injury
Individuals guilty of inflicting serious physical injury upon another person are not eligible to have their conviction set aside. Those are regarded as dangerous offenses.
Crimes That Involved the Use or Exhibition of a Deadly Weapon
Speaking of dangerous offenses, individuals guilty of using or brandishing a deadly weapon of some kind cannot have their conviction set aside. The state of Arizona considers anything that is “designed for deadly use” a deadly weapon.
Crimes That Involved a Victim under the Age of Fifteen
Arizona law prioritizes the protection of minors. If your conviction is a crime involving someone under the age of fifteen, they cannot set it aside.
Certain Driving Offenses
Lastly, they will not set aside some driving-related offenses according to Arizona law. For instance, if they caught you driving with a suspended license, do not count on the court being able to set your conviction aside.
How Does the Process of Clearing Criminal Records Work?
To start getting your conviction set aside or having an entry made into your records, you will first need to fill out some forms.
The forms you must fill out will depend on whether you are getting a misdemeanor or a felony conviction set aside. Talk to your attorney about that and let them help you acquire the required forms.
Next, you will have to file the filled-out forms with the court. Head over to the Clerk’s Office in your county and get your documents stamped and dated. The clerk will return some of the copies, and you must hold on to them.
If you are aiming to get a felony conviction set aside, you are also required to send your forms to the prosecutor in your area.
From here, your petition may progress in a few ways.
First off, the court may grant your petition right away. You do not need to do anything else at that point. Simply wait for the news that your record has been cleared.
The judge may also ask you to perform other actions before progressing with the petition. That may happen if you failed to complete some steps.
It is also possible that the judge will schedule a hearing in your case. Make sure you attend that hearing and answer any questions that the judge has for you. Notably, the prosecutor may also be asked to participate in that hearing and provide input regarding your petition.
Lastly, there is also a chance that the court will deny your petition.
What Are the Available Options if a Petition Is Denied?
Do not lose heart if your petition has been denied. You can simply modify the forms and file them again.
Take a moment to evaluate your petition before you file that request, though. Figure out how you can make a better case for the judge. Consulting with an attorney before filing that request will be crucial.
Partner with us at the Schill Law Group if you intend to file a petition to get your record cleared or want to file a request for reconsideration. Contact us today and let us discuss your legal options.