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Interpreting Missouri’s 2018 Expungement Statute

In January of 2018, the law in Missouri governing expungements greatly changed. Prior to the enactment of this law, very few crimes could be expunged, and the wait time to obtain an expungement was ten years for a misdemeanor and twenty years for a felony. Under the new law, the majority of offenses can be expunged and the wait time has been reduced to three years for a misdemeanor and seven years for a felony. The old law did not limit the number of expungements an applicant may receive so long as they were not sought from the same court, but the new law limits misdemeanor expungements to two and felony expungements to one. There is no limitation with regard to the number of expungements a person can receive for infractions. If multiple offenses are charged under the same indictment or information, they count as one offense.

The wait time means a period of time during which the person has had no other convictions. The wait time does not begin to toll until the completion of any sentence or term of probation. Also, there can be no currently pending charges against the individual at the time of application for an expungement.

Missouri State Highway PatrolIn R.G. v. Missouri State Highway Patrol, WD82176, the Missouri State Highway Patrol argued against the expungement of certain criminal records based on their interpretation of the wait time required by statute. R.G. was convicted of a misdemeanor in 2010 and then again in 2012. In 2012, he was placed on two years of probation. In 2015, he sought an expungement of both the 2010 and 2012 convictions. The MHP opposed the expungements arguing R.G. was not qualified as a result of the failure to go three years without a conviction between 2010 and 2012. The Western District appropriately disagreed with the MHP’s position stating that the “legislature was focused on the time immediately prior to the filing of the petition for expungement because that is the period of time that would determine if the petitioner had changed their behavior so as to meet the statutory qualifications for expungement and deserve the second chance provided by the statute.” Of further interest, in this case, is the Western District’s decision to refer to R.G. by only his initials. The Court acknowledged that referring to him by name would go against the spirit of the expungement and did not want to provide opponents an avenue for creating a public record through appeal.

hammerWhile the new law is more lenient, it is still important to point out that not all crimes may be expunged.  The statute specifically exempts numerous crimes from expungement including alcohol-related driving offenses, dangerous felonies, and sex offenses. For a complete list of exempt convictions consult an attorney (here at Call & Gentry Law Group) or refer to the statute. It can also be quite burdensome to obtain an expungement in that you must name as a party every agency that might have records related to the offense including every law enforcement agency and court record repository. Further, the application fee is $250.00, not including service fees and other administrative costs.

Expungement of criminal records restores a person to the status he or she would have been in prior to the conviction, “as if the events had never taken place.” The records are ordered “closed” to the public. The cases will no longer appear on Case.Net and will not show up on a criminal background check. As with most things, there are a few exceptions. The records are not ordered destroyed and so are still available for viewing if ordered released by the court “for good cause shown.” The offense may be considered during sentencing for any subsequent offense charged after the expungement. In addition, there are various applications upon which the offense must be disclosed including professional licenses, employment with the gaming commission, and employment with an insurance agency or bank.

If you’re interested in cleaning up your criminal record, it is possible you now have the ability to do so through Missouri’s new expungement law. You should consider contacting a lawyer to evaluate your situation and help guide you through the process.