You want a job, but it is a challenge to obtain employment when you committed a misdemeanor when you were young that exists on your “record”.  Before January 1, 2018, it would have been much harder to put your criminal past behind you.  Missouri had one of the most difficult expungement laws in the country.  However, it may be a Happy New Year for some who take advantage of a new law in Missouri.  Citizens of Missouri who paid their debt to society will now have a better chance to get a job and support their families.

                Expungement is a process whereby a person who has been convicted of a crime has that conviction removed from their criminal record.  Pursuant to 610.140 RSMo, which became applicable January 1, 2018, any person may apply for an order expunging records of arrest, plea, trial or conviction.  The process to seek an expungement after January 1, 2018 will involve filing an expungement petition and paying a $250 filing fee.  This Petition must be filed in the court where the applicant was arrested, charged or found guilty of a misdemeanor or felony.  Various requirements that must be met under the new law are critically important, so anyone setting to expunge their criminal records should consult with an attorney to do so.  Despite the good news, of course, not all convictions can be expunged.

                An alcohol related driving offense can only be expunged if at least 10 years has elapsed since the conviction of the offense, the conviction was for a misdemeanor or ordinance violation, the offense was the first intoxication-related offense, the person has not been convicted of an alcohol related driving offense since the first conviction, the person has had no subsequent alcohol related enforcement contacts, there are no pending alcohol related actions at the time of the hearing, and the conviction was not for driving a commercial motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol.  While this seems like a long list, many people may now be able to remove prior alcohol related driving offense from their record.  Likewise, many types of non-violent felonies and misdemeanors, including old marijuana convictions, will qualify for expungement.

                Expungement is not available for criminal convictions of class A felonies, any dangerous felony (assault or robbery are examples), offenses that require registration as a sex offender, felony offenses where death is an element of the offense, a felony assault or kidnapping, and any misdemeanor or felony domestic assault.

                For those criminal convictions, where expungement remains an option, it may be allowed if the person meets the following requirements: at least 7 years have passed since the felony disposition or 3 years since the misdemeanor disposition (time is from date person completes their probation, parole or sentence), the applicant has not been found guilty of any other misdemeanor or felony during the 3 or 7 year period, has satisfied all obligations of disposition, there are no pending charges against the applicant, the person’s habits and conduct must demonstrate that they are not a threat to public safety, and expungement is consistent with the public welfare and the interests of justice.  It should be noted that standard traffic tickets do not count as law violations that affect the running of the 3 or 7 year clock.

                When applying for most jobs, an applicant who has obtained an expungement may answer “No” to question about whether they have ever been convicted of a crime.  However, there are several jobs that for which a person may apply where the expungement will not help and the person will still need to disclose that they were convicted of a crime even if the offense was expunged.  If a profession requires a license, certificate, or permit issued by Missouri, such as a nursing license or physician’s license, the conviction must be disclosed in the application for that license.  A person must also disclose an expunged conviction if they are applying for jobs in emergency service providers, law enforcement agencies, banks or credit unions, the insurance industry, and any job where the employer is required to exclude applicants with criminal convictions from employment due to federal or state law.

                The expunged records will be “closed” under this new law, and not destroyed.  These records will not be available to the public, but they remain available to criminal justice agencies and a number of public entities for use in screening out applicants for licenses and employment in areas such as private security, law enforcement, care of children, care of elderly, and care of disabled.  Closed records are available to law enforcement for use in issuing firearm purchase and possession permits, but expungement will restore firearm rights lost as a result of a conviction.

                A person may apply to expunge two misdemeanors or one felony during their lifetime.  This new law will mean a fresh start for many people who are looking to move on with their lives without the stigma of a criminal conviction haunting them.  However, one should not assume that an expungement will guarantee complete eradication of one’s criminal record or even that every expungement petition will be granted.  Discuss these issues with an attorney if you want to pursue this option.  The law firm of Eckenrode-Maupin is happy to assist those seeking a fresh start.  Please contact us if you would like to assess whether you might qualify for an expungement of criminal offense(s) at 314/726-6670.

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