Missouri changed the expungement laws on January 1, 2018, when Missouri statute §610.140 became effective. The statute was later amended in August 2019. This statute allowed for the expungement (removal) of a large number of offenses from the criminal record of a person (felonies, misdemeanors, and infractions) that were previously ineligible for expungement. However, those who are looking to have an old conviction in Missouri expunged should consult with an attorney at the earliest opportunity. The statute is complicated, and an evaluation process is necessary to determine whether a person is eligible.
At the outset, it is important to determine what offense a person actually entered a plea to. Section §610.140(2) contains a list of the offenses that may not be expunged. There are also lifetime limits set in expungement situations. What matters is the final disposition of the charge, not the originally filed charges. As the statute is likely to be amended or modified on a reasonably regular basis, it is important to consult with an attorney who can examine any amendments and see how they apply to your specific situation.
Besides statute §610.140, there are some other statutes that permit expungements: §610.130 for certain alcohol-related traffic and boating offenses; §311.125 for expungement of records for alcohol-related offenses committed by persons under 21 years of age; §610.131 for expungement of prostitution offenses committed by a person under 18 years of age; and §568.040.6 for expungement of a conviction for criminal nonpayment of child support. With some qualifications, arrests may be expunged under §610.140.6 and §610.122.
The mechanics of filing an expungement petition are begun with the filing of an appropriate petition in the circuit court of the Missouri county where the prosecution and conviction took place. Details about the offense are listed in the petition, and it is then served on the various interested parties, such as the Highway Patrol, the Sheriff, the Circuit Court, the police department, and other parties. The stated purpose of an expungement is given in §610.140.8: “the effect of [an expungement order] shall be to restore such person to the status he or she occupied prior to such arrests, pleas, trials, or convictions as if such events had never taken place.” The records of the case are ordered to be closed, and “shall be inaccessible to the general public and to all persons other than the defendant except as provided in this section and chapter 43.”
Having a commercial drivers license (CDL) may disqualify a person from obtaining expungement of a traffic offense. However, a person may not be disqualified if the offense occurred before the person acquired the CDL, or was required to possess a CDL. In this type of scenario, it is important to check with your attorney to review the complexities of eligibility requirements. Under §610.140, there are also certain mandatory waiting periods for expungement applications: seven years for a felony, and three years for a misdemeanor, infraction, or ordinance violation. There are nuances to this requirement as well, which again highlights the importance of consulting with an attorney before coming to your own conclusion about your eligibility.
It is also important for an applicant to have satisfied all of the obligations related to the original case. For example, having a balance for an outstanding restitution order may disqualify a person from getting an expungement. Having current or pending charges (or outstanding warrants) in another jurisdiction may disqualify a person. Equally important is an applicant’s conduct and actions since the original conviction. What has he or she been doing in the years since the conviction? Has there been any professional training, education, or positive conduct? The presiding court will take this sort of thing into consideration when looking at a petition.
All in all, the new Missouri expungement statute is a welcome step in the right direction that has been needed for a long time. Kansas, for example, has long had an extensive statutory expungement mechanism, and Missouri has long needed a procedure that gives people a chance to remove old arrests and cases from their records. Keep in mind, however, that applying the Missouri expungement statute to your situation is not as simple as it may seem at first glance. Even if you are not eligible for an expungement, there may be other solutions or remedies that can be used, such as an application for executive clemency. There are complexities and nuances that will require analysis. This is why it is so critical to consult with an attorney if you are interested in exploring an expungement application. We are here to help, and can guide you through this process.
Phillips & Thomas LLC has extensive experience with representing clients in Missouri expungements. If you are interested in an expungement or expungement-related issues, please call us for a consultation at 913-385-9900.