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In many jurisdictions around the world, the legal system acknowledges the potential for rehabilitation and growth of individuals with a criminal past. Arizona, in recognizing this, offers an avenue for individuals to request that their criminal case records be sealed under specific conditions. Codified under Arizona Revised Statutes (ARS) 13-911, this legislation is designed to help qualifying individuals move forward with their lives without being perpetually haunted by their past mistakes. This article delves into the specifics of this statute and its implications.
1. What is the General Sealing of Criminal Case Records?
Sealing a criminal record essentially means that the record is hidden from general view. For most intents and purposes, a sealed record is treated as though it doesn’t exist. However, unlike expungement, where a record is entirely erased or destroyed, sealed records can still be accessed by specific government agencies under certain conditions.
2. Who Can Apply for Sealing of Records?
Under ARS 13-911, not all criminal records are eligible for sealing. Specific criteria must be met:
Type of Offense: Not all types of offenses can be sealed. For instance, violent felonies, sexual offenses, and crimes against children often cannot be sealed.
Time Period: A certain period must elapse from the date of conviction or the end of any prison or probation term.
Rehabilitation: The applicant should provide evidence of rehabilitation, which might include completion of probation, community service, completion of counseling, or other factors.
No pending charges: The individual seeking to have their record sealed should not have any other pending criminal charges.
3. Benefits of Sealing Criminal Records
Having a criminal record can have lingering effects on an individual’s life, restricting their employment opportunities, housing options, and even their ability to participate in certain civic activities. Sealing a record can:
Enhance Employment Opportunities: Many employers are hesitant to hire individuals with a criminal background. A sealed record provides applicants with a fresh start.
Housing and Loans: Sealed records can increase the chances of securing housing or loans, as many landlords and financial institutions conduct background checks.
Restore Civil Rights: In some cases, sealing a record can restore certain civil rights that were forfeited due to a criminal conviction.
4. Process for Sealing Records
Application: A petition to the court where the conviction took place is typically the first step. This petition will detail the reasons for the request and provide evidence supporting the petitioner’s eligibility under ARS 13-911.
Notice: Relevant parties, like the prosecuting attorney’s office, might be given notice of the petition and can object if they believe sealing the record is not in the interest of justice.
Hearing: A court hearing may be scheduled, during which both the petitioner and any opposing parties can present their arguments.
Court’s Decision: The court will consider all factors, including the nature of the crime, evidence of the petitioner’s rehabilitation, and the interests of justice before deciding whether to grant the petition.
It’s crucial to understand that sealing a record doesn’t completely erase the conviction. Certain government agencies, such as law enforcement, may still access these records under particular circumstances. Additionally, if an individual commits another crime in the future, a sealed record can be unsealed and used against them.
The provision to seal criminal case records under ARS 13-911 in Arizona represents a significant step towards offering individuals a chance at redemption and reintegrating them into society. If you or someone you know is considering this process, consulting with an experienced attorney familiar with Arizona’s sealing process is crucial. They can guide you through the intricacies of the law and improve your chances of successfully sealing your record.