Expungement: Can You Erase a Criminal Record?

(October 2013) A criminal record can have drastic consequences on many aspects of daily life, from employment to housing. People come to our office all of the time asking if we can help them “expunge” their conviction. Unfortunately, Arizona is one of the few states that does not recognize “expungement” as most people understand it.

There is a process, however, where one can file a Petition with the Court in which the charges were originally filed and ask the Court to aside the judgment of guilt, and dismiss the charges. Generally, we also prepare a Memorandum on behalf of our clients setting forth the basis for the request, and why the defendant is an appropriate candidate for this process. We also include a request that the defendant’s civil rights be restored. Our typical argument is that the defendant has been a law-abiding citizen since the time of conviction, and that his or her conduct was not indicative of his or her character. We have had great success in this process.

Most do not understand, however, that even if the Court grants the Petition, that the defendant still has a criminal record. While it certainly looks better to one who might examine the records that the case has been dismissed, the charges are not erased. These records are public and accessible to everyone. While juvenile records can be sealed, they too are accessible to law enforcement, and most investigators.

We advise our clients that it is always best to be open and honest about past mistakes at the outset as these matters become much more difficult to explain if they are discovered. Employers and landlords are more understanding of past mistakes, than someone who appears as if they are covering up something.

If you have further questions about this issue, please contact Ashley D. Adams via this website or at 480.219.1366.  Ashley is a criminal defense attorney in Scottsdale and a former federal prosecutor.