In Arizona, misdemeanor and felony convictions will remain on your record until you turn 99. Arizona law does allow you to request that that the court set aside qualifying convictions, but this does not remove the conviction from your criminal record. Anyone who runs a full background check would still see the conviction on your criminal record, with a side note that the conviction has been set aside.
What Does it Mean to Set Aside a Conviction?
When the court approves an order to set aside a conviction, the judge will set aside the judgement of guilt; dismiss the complaint, information, or indictment; and order that you be released from all penalties and disabilities resulting from the conviction. While this doesn’t expunge the conviction from your record, it does restore a number of civil rights that are typically stripped from individuals with a criminal conviction. These rights include:
- The right to purchase and own firearms
- The right to vote
- The right to serve on a jury
Unfortunately, having a conviction set aside by a judge doesn’t remove the conviction from your criminal record. If your employer (or prospective employer) runs a full background check, they will still see any convictions that have been set aside, albeit with an attachment that says the conviction has been set aside. As such, you should still indicate that you have been convicted of a misdemeanor or felony when filling out job applications, though you can explain that the conviction has been set aside.
How Do Employers Treat a Conviction That Has Been Set Aside?
There aren’t any state or federal laws that dictate how an employer can or should respond to an applicant’s criminal record. It’s up to the employer to decide whether the “set aside” status is sufficient to ignore the associated convictions. It’s safe to say that most employers still frown on convictions that have been set aside, but your chances of getting a job are definitely better if your conviction is set aside than if you don’t take any action.
Crimes that are Ineligible for Setting Aside a Conviction
While many misdemeanor and felony convictions are eligible to be set aside, there are 5 situations where the convicted individual cannot apply to have the conviction set aside. These include:
- Crimes that involve inflicting serious physical injury
- Crimes that involve the use or exhibition of a deadly weapon
- Crimes that are motivated by sexual desires
- Crimes where the victim is a minor aged 14 or younger
- Moving violations where the operator’s driver’s license was suspended or revoked
How to Set Aside a Conviction in Arizona
In most cases, the judge will inform you of your right to have your conviction set aside when the judge delivers your sentence. The court may even provide you with a form that you can use to apply to have the conviction set aside, though you’ll need to wait to file this until you qualify.
In order to qualify, you’ll first need to complete the terms of your sentencing. That includes serving any jail or prison time, paying your fines, fulfilling restitution requirements, and completing probation. If the sentence includes a mandate to attend classes for alcohol abuse, substance abuse, or domestic violence, you’ll need to complete these as well. Finally, if you have been convicted of two or more felonies and/or sentenced to prison, you’ll need to wait at least two years before applying to set aside the conviction.
When you’re eligible to apply to have your conviction set aside, here’s how to go about the process:
Discuss Your Case with an Attorney
You don’t need to use an attorney to file a request to have your conviction set aside, but it certainly helps to have professional assistance. You can also work with your probation officer to apply to have the conviction set aside.
File the Appropriate Forms
Each court has its own forms that you can use to petition to have your conviction set aside, and you’ll need to work with the court that handled your case (I.e. if your case was in Phoenix, you can’t apply to have your conviction set aside by a Tucson court). When you’ve completed the appropriate forms, file them with the county clerk. There is no filing fee for this service.
Wait for the Judge to Review Your Petition
After receiving your petition, the judge will evaluate your application based on the following criteria: the nature and circumstances of the offense; your compliance with the conditions of probation, the sentence imposed, and any applicable state DOC rules or regulations; any prior or subsequent convictions; the victim’s input and restitution status; the length of time since the completion of your sentence; your age at the time of conviction; and any other relevant factors (ARS 13-907).
Is it Possible to Have a Conviction Expunged From Your Criminal Record?
There are some states that allow you to completely expunge a conviction from your criminal record. These states often require that you complete the terms of your sentencing, your probation period (if applicable), and a waiting period before applying to have the conviction expunged. Unfortunately, Arizona law does not allow you to expunge convictions from your criminal record.
Can You “Clear Your Records” if You are Cleared of All Charges?
Although you can’t expunge a conviction from your criminal record in Arizona, you can petition to have an arrest, indictment, and/or criminal charge cleared from your criminal record if you were acquitted of the charges (ARS 13-4051). The same law allows you to clear mistakes from your criminal record.
The good news is that you don’t need an attorney to accomplish this—you can obtain the form online and submit the completed form to the court clerk. The bad news is that a successful petition to correct the mistake doesn’t actually remove it from your record. As with an order to set aside a conviction, an order to correct mistakes on your criminal record simply adds a note to your record that indicates you were cleared of the charges.
Reducing the Impact of Your Charge
At JacksonWhite Law, we offer our clients superior legal help that takes into consideration all possible angles. If you’ve been charged with any class of misdemeanor in Arizona, contact us today to make the most of your case.
Our experienced defense attorneys will work hard to reduce the impact of your charges, and get you recovered as fast as possible. Call our criminal defense team today at (480) 467-4370 for your free and confidential consultation.
Call the JacksonWhite Criminal Law team at (480) 467-4370 to discuss your case today.