The short answer is that criminal record expungement in Arizona doesn’t exist. According to Arizona Admin. Code R13-1-102, you cannot erase or seal an arrest or charge on an Arizona criminal record. Your criminal record will remain with you until you reach the age of 99.
But under the correct circumstances, you can obtain some of the benefits of expungement in Arizona. You can do this by having your conviction “set aside” under Arizona law.
If your criminal record has an error, you can also have the courts correct it. There are also some special circumstances in which the courts will vacate a conviction.
Obtaining these benefits of expungement in Arizona can be difficult. The Arizona courts don’t make it easy and straightforward to set aside a conviction. Even a small mistake could cause the courts to reject the set-aside.
At the Belen Law Firm, we understand that a criminal record can haunt you. Many times, our experienced Phoenix defense attorneys can convince the courts to change or reduce a charge. Even then, many of our clients suffer from lingering criminal records.
In this post, defense attorney Belen Olmedo Guerra will explain the process of setting aside a conviction in Arizona.
What Does Setting Aside A Conviction Mean?
A set-aside is a version of expungement in Arizona. Setting aside a conviction is different than expunging a conviction.
When you expunge a conviction, you completely erase it. A set aside doesn’t erase the conviction but cancels or revokes it.
While the original charge or conviction will still be on your record, there will be an alteration. Essentially, the original charge or conviction will still be there, but the set-aside will appear next to it.
For instance, let’s say you are searching for a new job.
Your potential employer runs a background check on you and sees your felony theft charges in Arizona. If your charges have been set aside, the courts will mark this charge as vacated or set aside. Thus, your potential employer will know that at one point Arizona courts charged you with a felony. But your potential employer will also see that you satisfied all the requirements of the court and that an Arizona judge agreed to set aside your conviction. However, because there is no such thing as expungement in Arizona, you still have to disclose your charges if your potential employer asks.
This may not seem like the same thing as expungement, because it isn’t. As we said, there is no such thing as expungement in Arizona. But a set aside order lets anyone looking at your criminal record know that you have successfully atoned for your crime. Some employers and landlords will view this positively, and some will not.
What Happens If The Court Declines My Application to Set Aside A Conviction?
If the Court denies your request to set aside your conviction, you can file a request for reconsideration. This depends on the reason for the denial.
You can find instructions for requesting reconsideration on the appropriate Court’s website.
What Rights Will I Get Back After My Conviction is Set Aside?
When a court sets aside your criminal record, it releases you from all associated disabilities and penalties. If an Arizona court has convicted you of a felony, you are more than familiar with the suspension of civil rights. Those with felonies on their record often lose their right to vote, right to serve on a jury, and their right to own firearms.
A set-aside will even return you your civil rights, including the right to own a firearm even if you have Arizona felony charges on your record.
Expungement in Arizona: Can I Have My Conviction Set Aside?
Unfortunately, not everyone can have their conviction set aside. While a court will set aside many felony and misdemeanor convictions, there are some convictions that make setting aside the conviction impossible.
These charges include:
- A dangerous offense
- Arizona sex crimes that require you to register as a sex offender
- Offenses that involve a finding of sexual motivation
- Crimes in which the victim is under the age of 15, and
- Certain driving offenses.
If a court has convicted you of any of these crimes, setting aside the conviction is not an option.
You should also note that you have to file your request for a set aside with the correct court. For instance, if a federal court convicted you, an Arizona Court does not have the power to set aside that conviction.
Can I Correct Mistakes On My Criminal Record?
Expungement in Arizona is not the only option for altering your criminal record. If police wrongfully arrested you or if a court wrongfully charged you and then cleared you, you can ask the superior court to note this on your criminal record.
Wrongful charges aren’t the only corrections you can make on your criminal record. You can also correct your criminal record by filling out a form called “Review and Challenge of Arizona Criminal History Information.” You can get this form from the Arizona Department of Public Safety.
Once you submit this form, the state criminal records agency will review it. If the corrections are necessary, the agency will update the record.
Vacating the Conviction of A Human Trafficking Victim in Arizona
Though there is no such thing as expungement in Arizona, there is a specific set of circumstances where the courts will vacate a conviction.
If a court convicts you of a prostitution charge while you were the victim of human trafficking, you can ask for them to vacate that record.
Once the court vacates the conviction, under most circumstances it is like the crime never occurred. You do not have to disclose that police arrested you or that courts charged or convicted you of the crime.
Contact The Belen Law Firm
Shouldering a felony conviction is a heavy burden, especially when there is no such thing as expungement in Arizona. But at the Belen Law Firm, we not only help our clients through their trials but help them integrate back into life afterward. To contact our top Arizona criminal defense lawyers, call 602-715-0908. You can also fill out a form to schedule a free consult.