Historically, Arizona has been unique in that it did not allow people who were convicted of crimes to expunge their criminal records; instead, they could only ask to have them set aside. The setting aside of a record does not erase it or seal it from public view, but it can still have many benefits. Under a new law, however, expungements are available for qualifying individuals as of January 2023.
What Does it Mean to Set a Criminal Record Aside?
Having a criminal record set aside means that a note will be added to the record stating that the individual completed all of the requirements of the sentence, and the court vacated the judgment or dismissed the conviction. This can help alleviate the negative impact and stigma of a criminal conviction on an individual’s future, such as during background checks by employers or landlords. However, the criminal record will still be available for the public to view.
Arizona’s New Expungement and Record-Sealing Law
Expunging a criminal record means to completely erase it and remove it from public view. With a successful expungement, it is as if the criminal conviction or arrest never happened. The general public will not be able to access or view the criminal record. An employer will not be able to see an expunged conviction on an applicant’s background check. While expungement does not remove the conviction or pardon the person for committing a crime, it can erase the criminal record so that it only becomes available to law enforcement.
Record expungement can give an individual a second chance. It clears his or her criminal history to give the person a fresh start. This can make it easier for the person to obtain housing or employment in the future. Until recently, expungement was not available to convicted criminals in Arizona. However, a new law has made it possible for qualifying individuals to apply to have their criminal records permanently expunged – also known as the sealing of an arrest, conviction or sentencing record.
Arizona Revised Statute 13-911 states that as of January 1, 2023, an individual may file a petition to seal all records associated with a criminal offense if he or she has completed all of the terms and conditions of the sentence, including paying any mandatory restitution owed to victims. Only certain parties are eligible to have their records expunged or sealed. If approved by the courts, the criminal record will effectively be erased and concealed from public view.
Do You Qualify to Have Your Record Set Aside or Expunged?
According to Arizona Revised Statute Section 13-905, any person who is convicted of a criminal offense can apply to the court to have the judgment of guilt set aside after fulfilling the conditions of his or her probation or sentence and being discharged by the court. To determine if someone qualifies to have a criminal record set aside, the courts will examine factors such as:
- The nature and circumstances of the offense
- The individual’s compliance with a sentence
- The amount of time that has elapsed since the completion of the sentence
- Any prior or subsequent convictions
- The status of victim restitution (if any)
- The individual’s age at the time of the conviction
It is a little more difficult to have a criminal record expunged in Arizona. A qualifying individual must wait a certain number of years after the date of conviction to apply for expungement. This ranges from 2 years for a class 3 misdemeanor to 10 years for a class 2 felony. There is also a period of time where all victims of the crime have the chance to object to the expungement petition. However, the extra effort can be worthwhile to have a mistake forgotten forever.