Record Expungement: Putting Your Criminal Past Behind You
A youthful mistake (or even a poor choice when you were old enough to know better) should not haunt you forever. In 2016, the Missouri legislature authorized expungement, which allows citizens to petition the court to erase or seal old criminal records.
Expunging past arrests or convictions can make a big difference when you are seeking jobs, housing or higher education. Yet expungement is not automatic and does not apply to certain crimes.
I am Kevin Jamison, a criminal law attorney in Kansas City with 40 years of experience. I can determine if you are eligible and steer your case through the system to close that chapter of your past and open up future opportunities.
What Exactly Is Expungement?
Expungement is a legal process to clear old criminal records.
- If you were arrested but never charged or never convicted, those records can be wiped clean. For all practical purposes, it never happened.
- If you were convicted of a crime, expungement can seal those records from public view. The conviction itself is not actually erased, but essentially moved to a different computer. Law enforcement and judges can still access the files, and it would still count as a prior offense if you were arrested in the future. But the record will not show up on criminal background checks by employers or landlords.
What Crimes Can Be Expunged?
Many crimes are eligible, such as shoplifting, assault, drug possession, burglary, disorderly conduct or unlawful use of a weapon. However, certain categories of crimes are not eligible, including sex crimes, domestic violence, felony DWI or public corruption. Misdemeanor convictions are eligible after one year from any sentence served, and felony convictions after three years. A single DWI offense can be expunged after 10 years if you have not had any other drunk driving arrests.
Will Expungement Restore My Gun Rights?
Many people pursue record expungement in the hopes of regaining their right to own and possess firearms. I want to be clear that — as things stand today — the federal government does not recognize Missouri expungements. Because the felony conviction is still on the books and would count as a prior offense, it is not considered a true expungement.
Nonetheless, I do believe expungement is worth pursuing for two reasons:
- You still get the benefit of excluding the offense from background checks.
- As a critical mass of citizens obtain expungements, it becomes more likely the federal government will change its position on gun rights or the Missouri legislature will close the loop.
Why Do I Need A Lawyer For This?
Expungement law is very technical and ever-evolving. The legislature has amended the statute several times since 2016, and there are still some gray areas not resolved by the courts. When you petition for expungement, you must assert how you qualify and why the court should grant it. I am well-versed in the legal nuances and have helped many clients get a fresh start by putting their criminal past in the rear view mirror.