Arizona has two common options for minimizing the mark of past run-ins with the law. The first referred to as “setting aside” a criminal conviction is available for most convictions in Arizona. The second referred to as “sealing and destroying” a criminal record, is available in very limited circumstances.
For those who have been convicted of a crime and exhausted all forms of appeal and post-conviction claims, a set-aside is likely the only option left. Arizona does not offer the possibility of an “expungement” of criminal convictions, as is available in many other states. When a conviction is expunged, it is effectively wiped off the record as if the crime was never committed.
A set-aside, on the other hand, allows the crime to remain on one’s record but will be marked with a notation that the judge has set aside the judgment of guilt. Unlike expungement, the full benefits of a criminal set-aside require someone previously convicted to remain crime free. If one commits a new offense, the state may still use the set-aside conviction against them.
There are still several potential benefits to pursuing a set-aside. A person whose conviction has been set aside is no longer a “convict” and no longer stands convicted of a criminal offense. While an employer may still ask if a person has “ever been” convicted of a crime, Arizona leaders are considering changes in the law that would prevent employers from finding out in the initial application process whether set-aside convictions exist in the applicant’s record.
Apart from potential employment benefits, a set-aside can often come with other benefits, such as restoring one’s right to vote and possess a firearm or improving an immigrant’s possibilities in immigration court.
Set-asides are available to most convicted persons who have completed their sentence, any probation term and paid all fines, fees, and restitution.
SEAL AND DESTROY
For those who were charged, but never convicted, Arizona law allows the possibility that all records of the allegations be sealed and destroyed. This means that any public record of the charges is destroyed. Courts are no longer allowed to maintain a public record of the case charges or history and the police department may no longer disseminate any information regarding the investigation.
Having records sealed and destroyed is only available to those people who are wrongfully accused of a crime and who are not convicted of any crime. That also means that they cannot have accepted a plea to a lower charge.
Until an innocent person succeeds in having their record sealed and destroyed, police are free to disseminate the report to anyone who makes a request for it through the proper process. Courts may still have the record on public websites, which makes it easy for a potential employer or anyone else to find.
If you have questions about whether you qualify for a set-aside or to have your record sealed and destroyed, call Tait & Hall at (480) 405-6767.