SEALING CRIMINAL RECORDS IN ARIZONA
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Having a criminal record can severely limit someone’s opportunities. A mistake as a teenager or young adult can follow you around for the rest of your life and limit your education, work, and even housing opportunities. A new Arizona law going into effect in 2023 can provide a second chance for people who have paid their debts to society. This is a huge leap forward for many people in Arizona. This law involves sealing criminal records (ARS 13-911).
If you’re interested in sealing criminal records in Arizona, contact the experienced criminal defense attorneys at the Ybarra Maldonado Law Group today. We’re ready to fight for your rights and protect your future. Our knowledgeable criminal defense lawyers in Phoenix have the skills and experience necessary to provide a successful outcome in your case. For more information about how we can help you, call us today at (602) 910-4040.
Can You Seal Records in Arizona?
Arizona’s new legislation allows those arrested and even convicted of certain crimes to seal their criminal records. Before this law, the only option for people to clear their record was with a “set aside.” Arizona law doesn’t allow people to expunge their record, but a set aside shares some of the same benefits. With a set aside criminal conviction, the original arrest and conviction stays on your record but the charges will be marked as “set aside.”
Future employers and landlords can still easily see this on your record. With the new ability to seal a criminal record, it removes the charge from your public record. Certain parties may still be able to see the prior convictions, but it greatly reduces the number of people who have access to this sensitive information. Your case has to meet certain criteria before case records related to your criminal conviction can be sealed.
ARS 13-911: Sealing of Arrest, Conviction, and Sentencing Records
The new law, A.R.S 13-911, outlines the necessary conditions for someone filing a petition to seal their criminal record. It also outlines the procedure for filing a petition and which agencies still have access to sealed records. Arrest records that were sealed pursuant to this statute can be used as evidence in future charges. This means that a sealed criminal conviction can be used as a historical prior felony conviction and aid the prosecution team in a subsequent prosecution.
What Does It Mean to Seal a Criminal Record?
Sealing criminal records can prevent you from being judged by your past mistakes for the rest of your life. A sealed record can still be accessed by certain agencies, but the information is no longer available to the general public. This means that future employers, schools, and landlords will not be able to see previous criminal convictions or arrest records. Before this law, past convictions could only be set aside (Arizona’s version of expungement). A juvenile record could be destroyed, but this law opens up the possibility of more people getting a second chance.
Expunged vs Sealed
Expungement of criminal records can be complicated in Arizona. Officially, expungement doesn’t really exist for most crimes. Instead, some criminal offenses and convictions have the ability to be “set aside” in Arizona. When criminal records are set aside, they are still visible on your public record; the criminal convictions merely have a set-aside designation. A sealed conviction, however, doesn’t appear in most background checks. Some exceptions apply, like if you’re applying to work as a law enforcement officer. This won’t necessarily bar you from getting the job, but the law enforcement agency will be able to see it on your record.
Who Is Eligible to Have Their Criminal Records Sealed in Arizona?
Under Arizona law, someone can petition to seal the records relating to their criminal offense if:
- The criminal conviction resulted in a dismissal or a not guilty verdict at trial
- The individual was arrested, but no charges were pursued
- The individual was convicted, sentenced, and has met all conditions of their sentence, including monetary obligations
Individuals convicted of dangerous crimes against children or sentenced as a dangerous offender are not eligible for record sealing.
What Do You Need for a Request to Seal a Criminal Record in Arizona?
Working with a skilled team can help you prevent any unexpected results from your petition to seal your records. Working with the team at Ybarra Maldonado Law Group can ensure that your paperwork is filled out and filed correctly with the proper court. Legal paperwork can be confusing, even for someone familiar with the process. The courts must follow rigid guidelines, so your petition could be denied due to a paperwork error. Find out what supporting documents you need to file a petition for sealing criminal records by calling us today at (602) 910-4040.
How Much Does It Cost to Seal Your Record in Arizona?
The cost of sealing criminal records is dependent on a few different factors in Arizona. According to the new legislation, the Director of the Department of Public Safety can charge a fee for the investigation needed by the court. The director may also charge a fee after a successful petition to offset the cost of research and correcting criminal history within various state and federal law enforcement agencies. The fee can be waived if you cannot afford it. The fee can also be waived if the charges were dropped or resulted in a not guilty verdict.
How Long Does It Take to Seal a Record in Arizona?
Depending on the details of your case, record sealing in Arizona can take up to a decade after restitution is completed. This is because the court prevents an individual from filing a petition to seal their records until after a certain period of time has passed, depending on the level of the crime. For a class 2 or 3 felony, you have to wait ten years after you finish any sentence or probation before you file a petition to seal your records. The time period for all levels on conviction are listed below:
- Class 2 or 3 felony: ten years
- Class 4, 5, or 6 felony: five years
- Class 1 misdemeanor: three years
- Class 2 or 3 misdemeanor: two years
- If the individual has a prior historical felony conviction, add an additional five years
The actual court proceedings are often much shorter than the wait periods. Under the law, the court can’t make a decision in your case for a full 30 calendar days, unless the prosecutor and all victims do not object to the petition for sealing criminal records. The court may or may not hold a hearing before granting or denying your petition.
For a more accurate timeline in your case, call the experienced attorneys at Ybarra Maldonado Law Group. We can guide you through this complicated process and go over all the details with you.
How Do I Know if My Criminal Record Is Sealed?
The court will notify you of their decision to grant or deny the petition to seal your records.
After the court grants the sealing of your records, the department of public safety will inform the appropriate state and federal law enforcement agencies of the sealing. This may take some time to complete, but the court will be able to give you a more accurate timeline for your case. You can always check your own criminal record by visiting the Arizona Department of Public Safety website. Your record will be mailed to you around two weeks after you submit the request for your records.
Why Would a Case Be Sealed by the Court?
If the court determines that sealing your record would be in the best interest of both you and the public’s safety, they will likely grant your petition. People with a criminal history are often disenfranchised. Criminal convictions can result in a loss of job opportunities, education opportunities, financial aid, and housing opportunities. If you served your time and paid your dues, having your records sealed can let you back to a normal life.
Who Has Access to Sealed Court Records?
Even after the court grants the sealing of your case records, some agencies will still have access to the sealed records. Law enforcement agencies will be able to view the records and even use the sealed records as evidence in future convictions. Sealed records can also appear on a background check, depending on the specifics of the conviction and the reason for a background check. In most cases, sealed records will not appear on background checks for employment and residency. All records pertaining to arrest, conviction, and sentencing are taken off your public record. Exceptions apply if the employment is a law enforcement agency, probation department, or correctional facility.
What If The Court Denies My Petition to Seal My Arrest Records?
If the court denies your petition to seal your records, you still have options moving forward. You can file a new petition three years after the original date of denial. Depending on the original reason for the denial, we can help you file a new petition with all the relevant information needed.
Contact a Phoenix Criminal Defense Lawyer to Seal Your Records
At Ybarra Maldonado Law Group, we focus on the future, not the past. Our clients aren’t simply another case number to us–they’re family. We work to provide the best possible legal representation to members of our community. Our dedicated team knows the freedom that can come with having a second chance at life. Our criminal defense attorneys are ready to provide you with everything you need for a successful outcome in your case. To schedule a free case evaluation with an experienced Phoenix criminal defense team, call us today at (602) 910-4040.
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