Everyone deserves a second chance after getting into trouble with the law. Unfortunately, the record of a criminal offense can follow you long after you have served your sentence and “paid your debt to society.” Individuals with records often have difficulty finding a job or even renting an apartment when they are forced to disclose a prior conviction from years ago.
To help alleviate this burden, Missouri adopted a new law that took effect in 2018 with respect to expungement–i.e., the process of sealing and destroying the record of a prior criminal conviction. At least as practiced in Missouri, expungement does not completely erase a record of conviction. But it does seal the record from the public and, in some cases, allows you to truthfully answer “no,” when asked if you have a prior conviction.
What Crimes Can (or Cannot) be Expunged?
The 2018 law significantly expanded the types of crimes eligible for expungement. That said, the legislature made sure to still exempt a large number of offenses from the new law. So it is actually easier to talk about the crimes that cannot be expunged, which include but are not limited to:
- Any Class A felony under Missouri law, such as murder in the first or second degree;
- Any “dangerous felony” defined by Missouri law, such as arson in the first degree, kidnapping, or assault of a police officer;
- Any felony assault;
- Any felony or misdemeanor crime involving domestic assault;
- Any Class one election offense, i.e., voter fraud;
- Possession of a firearm by a person previously convicted of a felony or otherwise not permitted to possess such weapons; and
- Any crime where conviction requires the defendant to register as a sex offender.
If a defendant has a crime that is eligible for expungement, they must still meet certain eligibility requirements before filing a petition with the court where the conviction was originally entered:
- There is a seven-year waiting period for seeking expungement of a felony conviction; this waiting period is reduced to three years for a misdemeanor, municipal offense, or infraction.
- During the applicable waiting period, the petitioner has not been found guilty of any other felony or misdemeanor crime, except for a traffic offense.
- The petitioner has “satisfied all obligations” arising from their prior conviction, i.e., they have completed their sentence and paid any court-ordered fines or restitution.
- The petitioner has no criminal charges pending at the time they filed their petition.
- The petitioner's “habits and conduct” show they do not pose any threat to public safety.
- Expungement of the prior conviction is “consistent with the public welfare” and would serve the “interests of justice.”
Generally, once you meet the first four criteria on this list, the law presumes you meet the final two and are entitled to an expungement. The prosecuting attorney, however, may seek to rebut that presumption in court. If your crime involved a victim, they may also present testimony in court, and the judge may deny you an expungement based on that evidence alone.
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If the court grants expungement, that effectively seals the record of the affected criminal conviction, meaning it is “confidential and only available to the parties or by order of the court for good cause shown.” This means that while members of the general public will no longer be able to see an expunged record, law enforcement agencies still can, although local officials must ask the FBI to expunge your record from its files. The expunged record is also still available to any potential employer or state licensing agency that is required to screen applicants for criminal history.
That said, if you seek and obtain an expungement, you normally do not have to disclose the expunged offense when applying for work in a non-restricted area or in other contexts such as filling out a rental application. You may essentially act as if the expunged crime never happened.
If you have further questions about the expungement process and need advice from a qualified Missouri criminal defense attorney, contact the Law Office of Keya M. Reed, LLC, today to schedule a consultation.