Lawyers in Missouri won’t have to wait too long before they can begin petitioning courts to expunge old criminal convictions under a Missouri expungement bill that was signed by Governor Jay Nixon on July 13, 2016.
For at least the past four decades there have been no good answers for those seeking to expunge criminal convictions. Attorneys in Missouri, except in very limited circumstances, had very little to offer offenders who wanted to expunge a criminal conviction. Perhaps more than any other area of inquiry our attorneys receive, people want to know if they can expunge misdemeanor or felony convictions. Oftentimes, the calls come from individuals who have been disqualified from employment or from people who are just seeking to restore their own sense of dignity and worth.
The Current Missouri Expungement Statute
Missouri’s current law is limited to just a few circumstances such as felony and misdemeanor convictions for passing a bad check or fraudulent use of a credit or debit device. Some oddball misdemeanor offenses like negligent burning or exploding, gambling, private peace disturbance, first-degree trespass and the serious offense of being drunk in a church or schoolhouse all qualify as seldom charged but expungement eligible offenses under Missouri’s present expungement statute. B and C misdemeanors along with first-time DWI convictions after 10 years of good behavior also qualify.
The Future of Expungement in Missouri – Senate Bill 588
Senate Bill 588 passed both houses of the Missouri Legislature in the spring of 2016 and was signed by Governor Jay Nixon on July 13, 2016. Although it won’t go into effect until January 1, 2018, many Missourians for the first time will have the opportunity to finally shed themselves of prior convictions.
It won’t help those who have been convicted of child pornography or violent crime, but for thousands, it will be a source of real relief.
The particulars of the new Missouri expungement bill include:
a. Petitions for expungement may be filed in any Missouri court in which such person was charged or found guilty.
b. Petitioners must list all offenses that he or she is seeking to have expunged.
c. Convictions that cannot be expunged are (i) Class A felony offenses; (ii) dangerous felonies as defined in section 556.061 of Missouri statutes; (iii) any offense that requires registration as a sex offender; (iii) any felony where death is an element of the offense; any felony offense of assault; (iiii) any misdemeanor or felony of domestic assault; (iiiii) or felony offense of kidnapping and a number of other offenses that fall broadly under the category of crimes against persons.
d. Also excluded from expungement are intoxication-related offenses. First time DWI offenders can still seek expungement in Missouri after 10 years without additional alcohol-related convictions under section 577.054.
e. Violation of laws regulating operation of a motor vehicle by an individual who holds a commercial driver’s license cannot be expunged.
f. Although it doesn’t appear that that there is a time period requirement that must pass before applying, a court “may consider” if seven years have passed in felony cases or three years in misdemeanor cases. Lack of subsequent criminal record, payment of restitution from past convictions and “the petitioner’s habits and conduct” showing that he or she is not a threat to society may also be considered.
g. The clerk of the court must give notice to the prosecuting attorney, circuit attorney or municipal court prosecuting of the appropriate court when a petition for expungement in Missouri has been filed. Once notified, the prosecuting authority has thirty days to object to the expungement.
h. Expungement of arrest records cannot occur sooner than three years after an arrest.
i. Once an order of expungement is entered the underlying court file must be closed.
j. A person who has been granted an order of expungement may, with regard to the expunged conviction, answer “no” to an employer inquiry as to whether the applicant has ever been convicted of a crime unless the employer is required to exclude certain people with criminal convictions from employment. If a law mandates the employer to not hire convicted offenders the applicant must answer that they have been convicted of a crime.
k. A Missouri expungement filing fee of $250.00 must accompany a petition to expunge unless the applicant is certified to be a poor person.
Does this mean I can get an expungement in Missouri?
A close reading of the Missouri expungement legislation (Senate Bill 588) reveals that there are still many impediments to expungement but for crimes against property and drug crimes there is hope. Likewise, to those unfamiliar with the process, there are pitfalls that can discourage applicants. Obviously, the process is defined by law and who better to understand and negotiate its provisions than a lawyer.
We anticipate there will be a high demand for this service and have already begun studying the law to best see how lawyers in Springfield MO can take advantage of its provisions for clients.
The Effect on other Missouri laws
One area that will likely see some attention is Missouri’s statute that permits expungement of arrests. Currently, section 610.122 of the Missouri Statutes allows expungement of arrest records if the arrest was based upon false information and there is no probable cause to believe the individual committed the offense, no charges were pursued as a result of the arrest and the subject of the arrest did not receive a suspended imposition of sentence. Because actual convictions can be expunged under the new law it seems probable that the qualifying list of arrests that can be expunged will be expanded. Hopefully, the Missouri Legislature will sort out those concerns in future legislation.
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