How to Expunge a Misdemeanor in Missouri
A criminal record can have long-lasting consequences, affecting your employment prospects, housing options, and personal life. However, in Missouri, individuals with misdemeanor convictions may have the option to expunge their records, providing an opportunity for a fresh start. In this article, we will guide you through the process of expunging a misdemeanor in Missouri, addressing frequently asked questions along the way.
What is Expungement?
Expungement is a legal process that allows individuals to have certain criminal records sealed or removed from public access. Once a record is expunged, it is as if the conviction never occurred, and you can legally state that you have not been convicted of the crime. Expungement laws vary from state to state, so it is important to understand the specific requirements and procedures in Missouri.
Eligibility for Expungement in Missouri
Not all misdemeanors are eligible for expungement in Missouri. To be eligible, the following criteria must be met:
1. Waiting Period: A minimum of three years must have passed since the completion of your sentence, including probation and payment of fines. For certain offenses, such as minor traffic violations, the waiting period is only one year.
2. No Prior Felony Convictions: You must not have any prior felony convictions on your record. Only misdemeanors can be expunged.
3. No Pending Charges: You must not have any pending criminal charges at the time of your expungement petition.
4. Specific Offenses: Certain offenses, such as sexual offenses, domestic violence, and offenses involving a deadly weapon, are not eligible for expungement.
The Expungement Process
Here is a step-by-step guide to expunging a misdemeanor in Missouri:
1. Determine Eligibility: Review the eligibility criteria mentioned above to ensure that you meet all the requirements for expungement.
2. Obtain Criminal Records: Obtain a copy of your criminal records from the Missouri State Highway Patrol’s Criminal Records Division. This document is crucial when filling out the necessary forms.
3. Complete the Petition: Fill out the necessary forms for expungement. These forms can be obtained from the Missouri courts’ website or your local courthouse. Provide accurate information about your conviction, including the case number, date of conviction, and the court where the conviction occurred.
4. File the Petition: File the completed petition with the court in the county where the conviction occurred. Pay the required filing fee, which varies by county.
5. Serve Notice: Serve a copy of the petition to the prosecuting attorney in the county where the conviction occurred. They will have the opportunity to object to the expungement if they wish.
6. Attend the Hearing: If no objection is raised, the court will schedule a hearing to review your petition. You must attend this hearing and present your case to the judge.
7. Judge’s Decision: The judge will review your petition and consider any objections from the prosecuting attorney. If everything is in order and you meet the eligibility requirements, the judge may grant your expungement.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Do I need an attorney to expunge a misdemeanor in Missouri?
A: While it is not mandatory to hire an attorney, it is advisable to seek legal counsel to ensure that you follow the correct procedure and meet all the requirements.
Q: Can I expunge multiple misdemeanors?
A: Yes, you can expunge multiple misdemeanors as long as they meet the eligibility criteria.
Q: Will my expunged record still be visible to law enforcement?
A: Law enforcement agencies will still have access to your expunged records but will not be available to the general public.
Q: Can I expunge a felony conviction in Missouri?
A: No, only misdemeanors are eligible for expungement in Missouri.
Q: How long does the expungement process take?
A: The process can take several months, depending on the court’s caseload and the complexity of your case.
Expunging a misdemeanor in Missouri can provide individuals with a fresh start, free from the burden of a criminal record. It is crucial to understand the eligibility requirements and follow the correct procedure when pursuing expungement. By doing so, you can take the necessary steps towards rebuilding your life and pursuing new opportunities. Remember, seeking legal advice is always recommended to ensure the best possible outcome.