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Arizona Expungement: A Comprehensive Guide

Arizona Expungement: A Comprehensive Guide

Starting December 31, 2022, Arizona introduced a game-changing law that allows people with certain criminal records to apply for expungement. This means if you’ve faced legal troubles in the past, there’s now a way to seal those records. Keep in mind expungement and record sealing are two different processes. This guide breaks down everything you need to know about the process, who can apply, the costs involved, and the benefits of getting your record expunged.

Who Can Apply for Arizona Expungement

Arizona’s expungement laws are designed to provide individuals who were arrested or convicted with a second chance by sealing certain criminal records from public view. However, eligibility for expungement is specific and excludes several types of offenses so you must first check your criminal history. Here’s a detailed look at who can apply:

Arizona Expungement: A Comprehensive Guide

Eligible Offenses:

  • Marijuana-Related Offenses: As per Arizona Revised Statute (ARS) 36-2862, offenses related to the personal use, possession, or cultivation of marijuana are eligible for expungement. This includes possessing up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana or cultivating no more than six plants at your residence for personal use.
  • Certain Misdemeanors and Felonies: Other specific misdemeanors and felony convictions may be eligible depending on the nature of the crime and the absence of aggravating factors.

Ineligible Offenses:

  • Violent Felonies: Includes crimes such as murder, manslaughter, and aggravated assault.
  • Sex Offenses: Any criminal offenses that are classified under sex crimes.
  • Use of Deadly Weapons: Crimes involving the discharge, use, or threatening exhibition of a deadly weapon.
  • Serious Crimes Against Children: Any criminal acts that directly harm minors.

Waiting Periods Before Applying

Arizona Expungement: A Comprehensive Guide

After fulfilling all the conditions of your sentence, including any restitution, community service, or rehabilitation programs, you must observe a waiting period before you can apply for expungement. The length of this waiting period depends on the classification of the offense:

  • Class 2 or 3 Felonies: 10 years
  • Class 4, 5, or 6 Felonies: 5 years
  • Class 1 Misdemeanors: 3 years
  • Class 2 or 3 Misdemeanors: 2 years

These waiting periods are designed to ensure that individuals have maintained a clean record post-conviction before applying to have their records sealed.

Time Frame and Cost of Arizona Expungement

Arizona Expungement: A Comprehensive Guide

Hiring an Attorney:

  • Cost of Legal Services: Typically, attorney fees for handling an expungement case in Arizona range from $800 to $1,200. This fee covers the consultation, preparation of legal documents, and any court appearances.
Filing Costs:
  • Motion to Seal: Filing a Motion to Seal in Arizona is free of charge. This policy was implemented to ensure that financial constraints do not prevent individuals from applying for expungement.

Timeframe: 

  • Varies: The length of the expungement process in Arizona can vary depending on the specific case and court backlog. The actual time it takes may be shorter or longer based on individual circumstances and the efficiency of the court handling the case.
  • Average Time: On average, the process can take between 3 to 6 months. 
  • Court Waiting Periods: Once an application or motion for expungement is submitted to the court, it may take an additional 90 days or so for the court to rule on the motion.

Process Overview:

Arizona Expungement: A Comprehensive Guide

  • Initial Consultation: Your attorney will review your case to ensure you meet the eligibility criteria for expungement.
  • Document Preparation: If eligible, your attorney will gather all necessary documents, including proof of sentence completion and any other court-required forms.
  • Filing the Motion: Your attorney will file the Motion to Seal with the appropriate Arizona court.
  • Court Proceedings: Depending on the complexity of your case, you may need to appear in court. Your attorney will represent you throughout any hearings
  • Finalization: If the court approves your application, your record will be sealed from public view, though certain government agencies may still access it for legal purposes.

Hiring an Attorney for Arizona Expungement

When you’re ready to clear your name and remove the weight of a criminal record from your shoulders, seeking professional legal help is a smart move. Here’s why an attorney is essential in the Arizona expungement process:

Arizona Expungement: A Comprehensive Guide

  • Expert Guidance: An attorney knows the ins and outs of the law. They can navigate the complex legal system and ensure that your petition is filed correctly.
  • Increased Success Rate: With their expertise, attorneys can bolster your chances of a successful expungement. They understand what the court looks for and how to present your case effectively.
  • Time-Saving: The expungement process can be time-consuming. An attorney can handle the paperwork and court appearances, freeing you to focus on your life and future.
  • Stress Reduction: Facing the legal system can be daunting. An attorney can alleviate the stress by managing the process and addressing any concerns you might have.

Benefits of Expungement

The advantages of expungement are clear and life-changing. Here’s what you can expect once your record is expunged:Arizona Expungement: A Comprehensive Guide

  • Privacy: Your criminal record will no longer be visible to the public. This means that when you apply for most jobs or housing, your past convictions won’t hold you back.
  • Employment Opportunities: Many employers run background checks. An expunged record can open doors to new job prospects and career advancements.
  • Restoration of Rights: Expungement can restore rights that were lost due to a conviction, such as voting and owning firearms.
  • Peace of Mind: Knowing that your past mistakes are no longer publicly accessible can provide immense psychological relief and a sense of a fresh start.

Limitations to Consider

  • Law Enforcement Access: Certain law enforcement agencies may still be able to see your expunged record for specific legal purposes.
  • Non-Erasement: Expungement in Arizona seals the record from public view but does not erase it completely. The record exists, but it’s hidden from general access.       

Conclusion

Arizona’s new expungement law offers a second chance to those with eligible criminal records. By understanding the eligibility criteria, waiting periods, and benefits, you can take the first step towards clearing your record and moving forward with your life. If you think you qualify, consider reaching out to an attorney to discuss your case.

The information contained in this post is for informational purposes only. It is not legal advice and is provided as is without any guarantee of accuracy. If you need a professional legal opinion, click here to send in your legal request.

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