Having a criminal record in Missouri can create significant barriers to opportunities like employment, housing, and certain professional licenses. However, under specific conditions, Missouri law allows individuals to expunge—or erase—criminal records. This comprehensive guide will walk you through the process of expunging a criminal record in Missouri and provide insights into how this action can positively impact your life.
Eligibility for Expungement in Missouri
Before starting the process, it's vital to determine if you're eligible for expungement. In Missouri, the expungement of certain misdemeanors can occur three years after the conviction, while felonies require a seven-year waiting period. Not all crimes are eligible for expungement, however. For example, violent crimes, repeat DUI offenses, and sexual offenses generally cannot be expunged.
Step-by-Step Guide to Expunging a Criminal Record
1. Determine Eligibility: Consult with a knowledgeable attorney or do independent research to ensure your conviction can be expunged under Missouri law.
2. Obtain Your Criminal Record: You can obtain this from the Missouri State Highway Patrol’s Criminal Justice Information Services Division.
3. File a Petition for Expungement: This should be done in the court where you were originally charged or convicted. Your petition must include specific details about the arrest, the court case, and your life since the conviction.
4. Serve Notice: You must serve notice of your expungement request to all parties involved in the original case. This often includes the law enforcement agency, the Missouri State Highway Patrol, and the prosecutor's office.
5. Attend the Hearing: A judge will hold a hearing to review your request. It's important to show that your behavior since the conviction justifies the expungement and that expunging your record won't harm public safety or compromise the administration of justice.
6. Order of Expungement: If the judge approves your petition, they will issue an Order of Expungement. All agencies with records of your conviction are required to comply and expunge their records.
The Aftermath of Expungement
After a successful expungement, the law views the conviction as though it never occurred. However, keep in mind that some entities, like law enforcement and criminal courts, can still access these records under certain conditions.
Expunging a criminal record in Missouri can be a game-changer, allowing you to fully move past a conviction. The process can be complex and involves careful attention to detail. As such, it's often advisable to work with a qualified attorney who can help guide you through the process and advocate for your interests.