Many states have begun the efforts of legalizing low-level offenses; however, the records of past criminal histories are still a challenge that presents many obstacles for job seekers.
A criminal conviction can carry all sorts of consequences, even some that are beyond the scope of the penalties that are associated with a criminal sentence. It is common for those with a criminal record to have a hard time finding housing, getting a loan, or even obtaining a job so they can support themselves and their families.
To “expunge” is to “erase or remove completely.” In law, “expungement” is the process by which a record of criminal conviction is destroyed or sealed from state or federal record. An expungement order directs the court to treat the criminal conviction as if it had never occurred, essentially removing it from a defendant’s criminal record as well as, ideally, the public record.
Missouri has two forms of expungement, one that is generally applicable to criminal cases and one that is unique for the crime of being a minor in possession of alcohol. On July 13th, 2016, Governor Jay Nixon signed Senate Bill 588 into law which expanded the opportunities available for expungement of criminal convictions in Missouri. Since then, other laws have passed that have expanded opportunities for expungement. For those specific offenses outlined in Missouri law and if other certain requirements are met, Missouri law allows a person to have a conviction record expunged.
A person is eligible for expungement in Missouri if the arrest was based on false information and the following conditions exist:
- There is no probable cause to believe the person committed the offense;
- No charges will be pursued as a result of the arrest;
- The person has no prior or subsequent misdemeanor or felony convictions;
- The person did not receive a suspended imposition of sentence for the offense; and
- No civil action is pending relating to the arrest or records sought to be expunged.[AB1]
In order to file for expungement, a person must meet all the qualifications and file a verified petition for expungement in the civil division of the Circuit Court in the country of arrest. The courts will set a hearing on the matter no later than 30 days after the petition was originally filed. If the court finds that the petitioner is entitled to expungement of any record, an order will then be entered directing expungement. However, records expunged under these circumstances are still subject to be opened by law enforcement if they are charged with a subsequent offense or if any of the requirements of expungement are no longer met.
Advocates in Missouri are continuing to work for new laws that will expanded expungement opportunities as well as make the expungement process easier, less expensive and in some cases automatic. If passed, this new expungement process will open doors for many more people with past arrest and conviction records. It will allow those with a criminal record to gain opportunities that once weren’t available because of past criminal history. Even if expungement is expanded, not everyone nor every conviction will be able to be expunged, but many will have the opportunity to seal their criminal record. To learn more about the pending expungement legislation CLICK HERE. To learn more about how you can get involved in these advocacy efforts visit our Smart Sentencing Coalition webpage by CLICKING HERE.