Sealing Records in Arizona Under The New Laws
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Criminal records resulting from arrests, even those with dismissed charges, as well as the majority of convictions, even for minor infractions, can significantly affect an individual’s professional prospects over an extended period. Arizona has traditionally not offered a comprehensive process for expunging most adult criminal convictions. The state has historically provided only limited relief for cases involving wrongful arrests with dismissed charges or minor possession of marijuana.
However, as of January 1, 2023, Arizona’s highly anticipated new record sealing law, ARS § 13-911, came into effect. It’s important to note that this law comes with various restrictions, exceptions, qualifications, and exclusions. This post will provide a straightforward guide to the process of sealing your arrest or conviction records, along with some important points of caution.
Sealing Criminal Records Under ARS 13-911: A Closer Look
The recently enacted law, ARS 13-911, lays out the rules for individuals seeking to seal their criminal records. It provides a clear framework for those interested in pursuing this process, detailing the conditions that must be met and the steps involved in filing a petition. Additionally, the law specifies which organizations or agencies can still access these sealed records.
It’s important to note that while this law allows for the sealing of arrest records, there is a significant caveat to consider. Records sealed in accordance with this statute can potentially resurface as evidence in future legal proceedings. This means that a previously sealed criminal conviction may resurface as a prior felony conviction, potentially aiding the prosecution’s case in any subsequent legal matters.
Understanding Criminal Record Sealing: A Fresh Start
Sealing a criminal record is a way to ensure that your past mistakes don’t define your entire life. When a record is sealed, it’s still accessible to specific organizations, but it’s no longer visible to the general public. This means that potential employers, educational institutions, and landlords won’t have access to your previous criminal convictions or arrest history.
Prior to this new Arizona law, the only option was to set aside past convictions. But now, thanks to this law, more individuals have the opportunity for a second chance at a clean slate.
Why is it Important to Seal Your Records in Arizona?
The significance of this action cannot be overstated, particularly in light of the new law that has recently come into effect. In Arizona, your criminal history, including arrest, conviction, and sentencing records, can have lasting consequences on your personal and professional life.
Criminal records are a permanent record of your involvement with the legal system, and they are accessible to potential employers, landlords, and even the general public. These records can cast a shadow over your reputation and hinder your opportunities in various ways.
The introduction of the new law provides an opportunity for individuals to have a chance at a fresh start. Sealing of arrest records, sealing of conviction records, and sealing of sentencing records can offer a path to rehabilitation and reintegration into society. By taking advantage of this opportunity, individuals can regain control over their lives, securing a brighter future for themselves and their loved ones.
Moreover, the court’s acknowledgment of the importance of sealing criminal records reflects a commitment to fairness and justice. It recognizes that people can make mistakes or find themselves in unfortunate circumstances, but those should not define their entire lives.
In essence, the sealing of criminal records in Arizona, made possible by this new law, provides a chance for individuals to move beyond their past and pursue a more promising future. It’s a crucial step towards rebuilding one’s life and ensuring that past convictions or arrests do not continue to hold them back.
Determining Eligibility for Record Sealing in Arizona
In Arizona, there are specific criteria that determine who can request the sealing of their criminal records. You may be eligible to seal your records if:
- Your criminal conviction led to a dismissal or a not guilty verdict during a trial.
- You were arrested, but no charges were ultimately pursued against you.
- You were convicted, served your sentence, and fulfilled all the associated obligations, including any financial responsibilities, and a certain period of time has passed.
It’s important to note that there are exceptions to eligibility. Individuals convicted of serious crimes against children or those sentenced as dangerous offenders do not qualify for record sealing in Arizona. These exceptions are in place to ensure the safety and protection of vulnerable populations.
Preparing Your Request for Criminal Record Sealing in Arizona
When seeking to seal your criminal record in Arizona, it’s essential to approach the process diligently. To ensure a successful outcome, consider working with a competent team like the one at DM Cantor. Their expertise can help you navigate the intricacies of this procedure.
Here’s why professional assistance is valuable:
- Accurate Paperwork: Crafting and submitting the necessary documents correctly is crucial. Legal paperwork can be perplexing, even for individuals familiar with the process. Courts adhere to strict guidelines, meaning a simple paperwork error could lead to your petition being denied.
- Guidance: A seasoned team can offer guidance tailored to your unique situation. They can help you understand what’s required and provide expert advice on the best course of action to achieve your goal.
- Avoiding Surprises: Partnering with professionals can prevent unexpected setbacks in your quest to seal your records. They have the knowledge and experience to anticipate potential challenges and address them effectively.
Understanding the Cost of Record Sealing in Arizona
The expenses associated with sealing your criminal records in Arizona can vary based on specific factors. Under the recent legislation, the Director of the Department of Public Safety has the authority to impose certain fees related to this process.
Here’s a breakdown of the key points:
- Investigation Fee: The Director may charge a fee for the investigation required by the court. This fee is part of the process and helps cover the costs associated with this essential step.
- Post-Petition Fee: Additionally, there may be a fee imposed after a successful petition. This fee serves to offset the expenses related to research and the correction of criminal history records across various state and federal law enforcement agencies.
- Waiver Possibility: Importantly, if you are unable to afford these fees, there is an option to request a waiver. This means that if you’re facing financial hardship, you can seek to have the fees waived. Furthermore, if your charges were dropped or resulted in a not guilty verdict, the fees can also be waived.
Understanding these cost factors and the potential for fee waivers is essential when considering the process of sealing your criminal records in Arizona. It ensures that individuals who meet specific criteria can access this legal remedy without being hindered by financial constraints.
Timelines for Record Sealing in Arizona
The duration it takes to seal a record in Arizona depends on several factors related to your specific situation. The legal process for record sealing involves waiting for a certain period after completing your sentence or probation before you can file a petition. This waiting period varies based on the severity of the offense. Here’s a breakdown of the waiting periods for different offense levels:
- Class 2 or 3 Felony: You must wait ten years after completing your sentence or probation before you can petition to seal your records.
- Class 4, 5, or 6 Felony: The waiting period is five years after sentence or probation completion.
- Class 1 Misdemeanor: You can file a petition after three years.
- Class 2 or 3 Misdemeanor: The waiting period is two years.
It’s worth noting that if you have a previous felony conviction on your record, you’ll need to add an extra five years to these waiting periods.
The actual court proceedings for record sealing are typically much shorter than the waiting periods. By law, the court cannot make a decision on your case until 30 calendar days have passed, unless there are no objections from the prosecutor and all victims regarding your petition to seal criminal records. Whether or not a hearing is held before granting or denying your petition is at the discretion of the court. This process ensures that individuals have a fair opportunity to request record sealing while allowing for legal review and consideration.
What to Do If Your Petition to Seal Records Is Denied
In the event that the court denies your initial petition to seal your records, there are further avenues you can explore. You have the option to submit a new petition, but you’ll need to wait for a period of three years from the original denial date before doing so. Depending on the reason for the initial denial, our team can assist you in preparing a new petition, ensuring that all the necessary and relevant details are included. Having an experienced criminal defense firm on your team is essential to the sealing process to ensure that you better your chances of being approved and avoid the years of waiting to reapply.
Moreover, it’s important to note that if your motion to set aside is also denied, DM Cantor can provide valuable support in this situation. A motion to set aside is a legal procedure that, if granted, essentially overturns your conviction. Our team of experienced legal professionals has a proven track record in handling such motions, offering you the opportunity to address the underlying issues and pursue a clean record with determination and expertise. We are committed to assisting you at every stage of the process, whether it’s petitioning to seal records or seeking a motion to set aside, to help you achieve the best possible outcome for your legal situation.
Board Certified Criminal Law Specialization
As of the start of 2023, the State Bar of Arizona Board of Legal Specialization listed only 56 Criminal Law Specialists in the entire state. Of these 56, only 39 are located in Maricopa County and are allowed to handle private cases.
DM Cantor has 3 Criminal Law Specialists, the most of any firm in Arizona. When defending allegations, it is critical to have as many Specialists on your legal team as is possible.
The specialization process is so rigorous that only 23 current Criminal Law Specialists were certified in the last 20 years. In addition, all specialists must be approved for re-certification every 5 years.
At DM Cantor, our Specialists have conducted Jury Trials on countless cases.
Every case defended by DM Cantor includes at least 1 Board Certified Criminal Law Specialist on the legal team who is directly handling or supervising the case’s progress.
We wouldn’t have it any other way.
If you’re facing challenges in your pursuit to seal your records, don’t hesitate to reach out to DM Cantor. Our team consists of board-certified criminal law experts who can provide the guidance and expertise needed to navigate the record sealing process successfully. We’re here to assist you in achieving your goal of securing a clean slate and a brighter future. Contact us today for personalized support and assistance.