Criminal convictions come with severe negative consequences. Even after doing time, the records can significantly impact a person’s life.
Such records make it difficult to secure a job, an apartment, admission, or educational scholarships.
Thankfully, there are ways to expunge a felony conviction from your records in Arizona.
The options, terms, and procedures for felons to remove past criminal activities from their records.
This article gives a comprehensive look at how to expunge a felony record in Arizona.
What to Know Before You Begin
In Arizona, deleting criminal records is termed “Set Aside,” not “expungement.” Setting aside, as well, involves clearing off your charges/arrest on your records.
While some states’ laws allow the complete destruction of all forms of records – both physical and online – it is different in Arizona.
Setting aside your records in Arizona affords people with felony records an opportunity to have their civil rights restored after sentence completion.
Since the law does not make provision for complete expungement, the courts and law enforcement can dig up your files if you commit a similar or more severe crime in the future.
Note: for the sake of this article, we will use the terms set side and expungement interchangeably.
Conditions for Set Aside Denial in Arizona
Most criminal offenses can be set aside in Arizona – both misdemeanors and felonies.
On completion of sentence, you will get a notification confirming your right to petition for your felony to be set aside. However, some offenses automatically ruin the chances of clearing off your records. Such includes:
- Criminal records involving the infliction of severe injuries
- Records which involves the use display or use of deadly weapons
- Sexual-related offenses
- A crime committed against minors below 15 years
- Driving with a suspended license
If your records do not involve either of these crimes, then your chances of getting records set aside are pretty high. However, before you make a petition, there are additional requirements as spelled out in the Arizona Revised Statuses.
How to Set Aside Your Judgement In Arizona
The Arizona state laws allow you to wait for a minimum of two years before eligible to apply to set your records aside. You must go through the waiting period without committing any offense.
Your ability to clear doubts of a possible repeat offense automatically increases your chances of getting your felony set aside.
Ensure you complete your sentence terms. The terms may include court-ordered community service, prison time, rehabilitation courses, fees and surcharges, and other related obligations. Completed sentences may come with proof and relevant documents to back up your claim in court.
You can proceed to fill out the forms to set aside your judgment. The petition is filed to the same court that convicted you.
Offenses by Minors
Minors are given high preference when it comes to setting aside records. Generally, minor’s records can be sealed, easily.
A minor charged in a juvenile court does not reflect on the public record. Such information can only be accessed by government agencies.
Crimes committed as juveniles can be expunged when offenders become adults. However, this is only applicable to persons who served felony probation. Minors who did not serve court order-probation, but rather sentenced to prison as juveniles cannot seal their records.
The judge has the power to or not to seal records of a juvenile who served adult probation. Such persons should not expect an auto-record sealing, and there must be a petition for the judge to grant such.
When NOT GUILTY, case is dismissed or acquitted, the arrest records will still come hunting you.
Thankfully, A.R.S. 13-4051 makes provision for wrongfully accused persons to apply for clearing of public records. Defendants are, however, required to prove their innocence.
Can I seal my felony records in Arizona?
Sadly, no. Sealing of criminal records in Arizona is not possible. Currently, Arizona state laws hold no provision for sealing records.
Can I get a pardon in Arizona?
Yes, you can obtain a pardon in Arizona after completion of the sentence or discharge from prison. Here are some rules to pardon in Arizona:
- The governor of Arizona wields the authority to grant pardons, commutation, and reprieves except for cases of impeachment or treason
- The Legislature, however, can restrict or limit the power vested upon on the governor to pardon
- The governor may only grant an offender pardon based on the Board of Executive Clemency recommendation.
Will my Background Check reflect a set-aside record?
It depends on the actual background check carried out. For standard background check, which looks out for just convictions, a case set- aside will most likely not appear. But for more comprehensive background checks, it will.
Arizona state laws make provision for ‘deleting’ convictions from one’s record. If the process is successful, the records will show “set aside” on your background check report.
It is most likely your record still captures the initial charge and sentence but will clearly state that the case was “vacated,” followed by an “order of dismissal.”
Why this may sound somewhat discouraging, that’s the best Arizona has to offer for now.
How do concerned agencies know your case has been set aside?
On successful completion of the set-aside process, the court issues an order to Department of Public Safety for your records to be updated. Public record databases will reflect the set-aside order and close your case.
How long will it take for the databases to be updated?
Typically, updates are made to court records in 48 hours. The Arizona Department of Public Safety will effect the changes in their records within 30 days.
Is it compulsory to hire an attorney to set aside a felony?
Hiring a lawyer to have your felony set aside is not compulsory. However, since the process can be pretty technical with all the paper-work processes and other technicalities, you may need to seek professional legal aid to help you get it right.
If you get the documentation process wrong, you could ruin the entire process, and your request rejected. Hence, a seasoned lawyer will hold you by the hand through the process – file the petition and make necessary representations in court – Improving your chances for an expungement approval.
Read also: California Expunge Felony Guide