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Expungement of Criminal Offenses

Missouri has been notoriously unforgiving when it comes to expunging criminal records, but the legislature has begun to open a door just a crack for those who may have had some early brushes with the law:

Driving While Intoxicated
Section 577.054

DWI Expungement

This provision is a handy one that I believe is underused. The law provides that if one has a single DWI or other misdemeanor alcohol related driving offense that is ten years old, that conviction can be made to disappear forever.

Most people who picked up a DWI conviction when they were younger have pretty much put that experience behind them with the passage of ten years. It costs money and a little time, but there are good reasons to get an expungement:

  • First, keep in mind that without an expungement, we carry every conviction to our graves. One cannot be sure when a DWI might later pop up in a harmful way. It could be a job-related issue or a matter of reputation.
  • In addition, any subsequent DWI charge will be far more damaging if any prior DWI is still on the books.

If there is an old DWI in the closet, you may want to consider cleaning it out.

The effect of an expungement order is to restore you to your status prior to your DWI arrest, plea or conviction–-basically turning back the clock as if such event had never taken place. Even records of related administrative actions are expunged.

In addition to the expungement of the records, you cannot later be found guilty of perjury or giving a false statement for failing to admit to the expunged arrest, plea, trial or conviction (no matter who asks or why).

Expungement requires filing a petition with the court in which you originally pled guilty or were convicted. After a criminal background check, you must prove–-in a hearing–-that you have a clean record for the last ten years; that you have not been convicted, pled guilty to or been found guilty of--and have no pending charges for--any offense related to alcohol, controlled substances or drugs.

Likewise, the record must be free of other alcohol-related enforcement contacts (like a license revocation) during the preceding ten years.

If the court then concludes that your habits and conduct show that you are no longer a threat to the public safety, the court will then order expungement of all official records of the arrest, plea, trial, conviction and resulting administrative actions.

Other Crimes
Section 610.140

A law passed in 2012 now permits the expungment of some additional felony and misdemeanor criminal records. The felonies must be over twenty years old and misdemeanors ten years old with no other criminal offenses (excluding traffic) committed during those time periods. In addition, the 10 and 20 year period cannot start while one is on probation or parole. Here is a rough list of crimes which may be expunged:

 

Felonies and Misdemeanors:

  • Passing a bad check
  • Fraudulently stopping payment of an instrument
  • Fraudulent use of a credit device or debit device

 

Misdemeanors only:

  • Negligent setting of a fire
  • Tampering in the second degree (joyriding among other things)
  • Property damage
  • Trespass
  • Gambling
  • Peace disturbance
  • Drunkeness/Drinking in schools, churches and courthouses

Getting convictions expunged requires the filing of a petition in the court in which the person was found guilty. The petition must name--as a defendant--each and every state agency that may possess the conviction records. On top of filing and service fees, the new law tacks on an extra $100 filing fee. Section 488.650.

There must be a court hearing and a finding that the petitioner meets every criteria, including full payment of any restitution ordered. The court must also find that the “circumstances and behavior of the petitioner warrant the expungement” and that the expungement is “consistent with the public welfare.”

 

Minor-in-Possession (MIP)
Section 311.326

There is also a provision for the expungement of an MIP conviction for the possession (including consumption) of alcohol by any person under the age of 21 years. Section 311.326 sets forth the procedure for expungement of MIP convictions for qualifying persons who are at least 22 years old.