For those of you who don’t know, expungement is the process in which a conviction, an arrest or the filing of a criminal charge is erased from the record. Effectively, it would, for most purposes, be as if the conviction, arrest or charge never happened.
Arizona does not currently have an expungement law that would allow these types of records to be erased, with the exception of certain marijuana charges. At the present time, the law allows only that you may have the record of a conviction “set aside” after you have fulfilled the conditions of that conviction, in terms of probation, serving a custodial sentence, paying fines, etc. A.R.S. 13-905. While this is perhaps helpful to some, the primary benefit of an expungement usually relates to employment opportunities. The current law in Arizona allows a prospective employer to see the old conviction, for example, but also that it was “set aside.” It does not alter the essential fact that you were convicted, nor does it seal the record of that conviction.
Other states have “expungement” laws that are more effective in giving a person a fresh start. For example, in New Jersey, the expungement statute, N.J.S.A. 2C:52-1, actually provides a second chance – a clean slate – for those who qualify and obtain an expungement. It permits you to answer “no” to a question from a prospective employer when asked about prior convictions. The same answer can also be properly given in connection with loan or scholarship applications, or for gun permits. It specifically says that expunged records are extracted and isolated.
Arizona’s New Law on Sealing Criminal Records
The law is about to change in Arizona, when A.R.S. 13-911 becomes effective in January 2023. But while the change is a move in the right direction, it still does not amount to a true expungement law. What it does is seal the records of your past arrest, conviction, etc., but still allows an old conviction to be used in new cases against you. This means that if a prior conviction is an element of a new offense, the ”sealed” record can be used to meet that requirement. It can also be used to impeach you as a witness, and as a sentencing enhancement, where applicable.
Nevertheless, we see the new Arizona law as at least a step in the right direction, particularly when so many people were laid off as the result of COVID and are now seeking new jobs. It also applies, as in some other states, to disclosure on loan and housing applications.
One final word of caution: The new law in Arizona is not applicable to all prior convictions, including class 1 felonies and sex crimes.
Law Offices of David A. Black
40 North Central Avenue #1850
Phoenix, AZ 85004