Arizona has historically been unique in terms of its expungement laws, as the only option has been the setting aside of a record – a lesser version of expungement that does not erase the record or seal it from public view. Under a new state law that will become effective in January 2023, however, eligible individuals will finally be able to have their records sealed in Arizona. This presents a great opportunity for a fresh start as someone with an arrest or criminal conviction on their record.
To learn more about Arizona’s new expungement laws and what it might mean for your criminal record, contact the Phoenix set aside and expungement lawyers at AZ Defenders for a free consultation.
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What is an Expungement?
What Are Arizona’s Current Expungement Laws?
Arizona’s New Expungement Laws, Coming January 2023
ARS § 36-2862
ARS § 13-911
What Is a Certificate of Second Chance?
When Can You Petition to Have Records Sealed?
What Offenses May Not Be Sealed?
How Can an Attorney Help?
Speak With a Criminal Defense Lawyer Today
An expungement is the erasure or removal of an individual’s criminal record. It can also refer to destroying or sealing a record. Certain people qualify to have their records erased or removed from public view with an expungement order in states that allow for expungement. During this process, a criminal record is removed as if the crime never happened.
While it is not a pardon for committing a crime and it does not remove the conviction, record expungement can effectively erase a criminal record so that it is invisible to employers, landlords, the courts and the general public. Record expungement can give an individual a chance to start over, without the blight of a criminal conviction getting in the way of jobs or housing.
Until now, it has not been possible to expunge a record in Arizona. The only thing close to expungement was setting aside a conviction under state law. This does not make a record invisible to landlords and others who search for it, including employers or the courts. It does not erase or seal the record. Instead, it simply shows that the conviction or arrest has been set aside using a note attached to the criminal record.
There are benefits to setting aside a record in Arizona. For example, it demonstrates that an individual has met all of the eligibility requirements, including completing the conditions of a sentence, which can put someone in a more favorable position for landlords and employers. Having a record set aside under the current law can also result in the restoration of gun ownership rights.
Until July 2021, Arizona was the only state in the nation that did not have a provision enabling people to expunge or seal their records. Setting aside the record was the only option for an individual who wished to change his or her criminal record and move forward from a long-ago mistake. Now, however, thanks to new expungement laws in Arizona, this has changed.
Arizona has passed multiple laws that have expanded the ability of an individual to have his or her record sealed or expunged from public view. These laws promise a positive change for thousands of Arizonans who are still dealing with the consequences of a single mistake made years ago – the ability to effectively conceal their records from the public.
In July 2021, two groundbreaking expungement laws were passed in Arizona: Arizona Revised Statute (ARS) 36-2862 and ARS 13-911. These new laws have brought Arizona up to par with most other states in the country in terms of record expungement capabilities. They enable those arrested for, charged with, adjudicated or convicted of many different crimes to have their records completely erased or sealed.
ARS 36-2862 states that as of July 12, 2021, anyone who has a criminal record with certain offenses involving marijuana can petition the court to have his or her record expunged. This includes arrests, convictions and other marks on the person’s record connected to certain marijuana crimes. This new law provides a true expungement, meaning the record will be erased and only visible to law enforcement officers and the courts in specific situations. The crimes included in this law are:
Note that this law leaves out arrests and charges connected to the sale or distribution of marijuana. To have a qualifying record expunged, all you have to do is fill out the required forms and submit them to the correct courthouse in your county. Upon receiving your petition, the court may hold a hearing if requested by the applicant or the prosecutor involved in the case. Then, based on the information presented, the courts will determine if the petition should be granted.
Another new expungement law in Arizona, Senate Bill 1294, was passed on July 9, 2021. This law created Arizona Revised Statute 13-911 – the state’s first record-sealing law. ARS 13-911 states that an individual can file a petition to have his or her case records related to a criminal offense sealed if he or she meets certain conditions.
This law goes into effect on January 1, 2023, and can enable thousands of citizens in Arizona to have their records sealed rather than only set aside. This comes with the advantage of erasing it entirely from public view. ARS 13-911 applies to anyone who has been:
While there are some exceptions to Arizona’s new record-sealing rule (more about exceptions below), it can allow many people to have second chances. It effectively seals these criminal records from public view, meaning they will not appear in criminal background checks. In addition, an individual with a sealed record does not have to check the box that asks if he or she has ever been arrested or convicted of a crime when submitting an application for a job or housing. This can be instrumental in allowing the person to move forward from a criminal past.
Another new law involving record expungement that was passed in Arizona in 2021 is House Bill 2067. This created a new judicial certificate of relief known as a Certificate of Second Chance. Under this law, an individual may receive an order from the court that includes a Certificate of Second Chance after being convicted of a criminal offense, at sentencing. This certificate allows eligible people to not only petition to have their records set aside in Arizona but to achieve total rehabilitation that is judicially certified, effective September 29, 2021.
This means that a person with the certificate can restore his or her right to obtain certain professional certifications that are typically barred for people convicted of certain crimes, such as construction, teaching, childcare and medical care. In the past, statutory restrictions that barred professional certification got in the way of individuals trying to rebuild their lives and move forward with careers. Now, if an individual receives a Certificate of Second Chance in Arizona, he or she can obtain the professional license that is required for the job.
If you wish to have a criminal record expunged or sealed under either of Arizona’s new laws in 2023, you will first need to go through a state-imposed waiting period. The provisions of ARS 13-911(G) state that a waiting period applies after an individual completes his or her sentence before that person can petition the courts. The length of this period depends on the severity of the offense:
If an individual has a prior felony conviction on his or her record, this will add an additional five years to the existing waiting period. With two or more convictions on someone’s previous record, he or she cannot request the record to be sealed until the required period of time has passed for each conviction.
Although Arizona’s new expungement laws are taking great strides toward rehabilitation and creating new opportunities for individuals with criminal histories, not all offenses qualify for record sealing or expungement. While SB 1294 does not have any limitations or exclusions based on the number of convictions on an individual’s record, it does list certain offenses that may not be sealed or expunged under the new laws. These include:
In addition, as stated above, ARS 36-2862 does not allow the expungement of a sale of marijuana offense. Yet ARS 13-911 may create an exception to this specific rule. Under ARS 13-911, if an individual goes through the required waiting period, he or she can petition to have his or her record sealed even for a sale of marijuana offense. If the petition succeeds, Section H of the law states that while the record will be sealed from public view (sealed, not expunged), the individual will still have to mark that he or she has been convicted of an offense on application forms.
Arizona’s new expungement and record-sealing laws can be difficult for the average person to navigate. They are full of legal jargon, fine print, and confusing terms and provisions. To make matters more complicated, Arizona lawmakers are constantly amending the laws and passing new ones, meaning the rules are always evolving. While the passing of new expungement laws is certainly a good thing, it can make it difficult for an individual with a criminal history to understand his or her legal options for sealing or erasing a record.
If you wish to explore your options for hiding a criminal record from public view in Arizona, the best way to do so is by consulting an expungement attorney. An attorney who specializes in setting aside, expunging and sealing criminal records will have all of the information that you need to achieve your goals, including the most up-to-date information on newly passed laws in Arizona. A lawyer can also help you with the paperwork side of record sealing or expungement, which can be lengthy and complicated.
Although there is no limit to the number of times that a person can apply to have his or her criminal record sealed under SB 1294, getting it right the first time can save you the time and stress of filling out and filing the same documents repeatedly. A lawyer will make sure your forms are filled out correctly and that you have met all other requirements for record sealing or expungement under the most recent state laws.
The courts have 30 days to review an application for record sealing/expungement and decide whether to accept or deny it. If the courts decide not to approve your petition, your attorney can help you understand why this decision was made and possibly assist you with a new petition in pursuit of a better outcome. Throughout the process of record expungement or sealing, your lawyer will protect your best interests and help you achieve your long-term goals for the future.
Arizona’s new laws are paving the way for people with criminal histories to restore their lives, rights and freedoms. Find out if you’re eligible for expungement under the new rules by contacting an attorney who specializes in these types of cases. At AZ Defenders, our Phoenix criminal defense lawyers have been providing smart and aggressive legal services for all types of criminal cases for many years.
We are dedicated to defending those who have been accused, arrested for, or charged with alleged crimes in Arizona. Our dedication and commitment to our clients do not end after someone gets convicted. We offer our legal services to those who wish to set aside – and now seal and expunge – their criminal records in Arizona. You can trust our lawyers to choose the best path available under all state laws for erasing or sealing your record and take care of the required legal legwork to achieve your goals.
To learn more about record expungement in Arizona under the new laws, contact AZ Defenders today. Call us at (480) 456-6400 or request your free consultation by contacting us online 24/7.