The Road To Recovery Through Missouri's New Expungement Law

Recovery: 1. a return to a normal state of health, mind, or strength; or, 2. the action or process of regaining possession or control of something stolen or lost.

Recovery is accomplished through many stages of healing which works toward the return of a normal state of health, mind, and strength.  Physically speaking, recovery of one’s health and strength is arguably the easiest to overcome. Mentally and emotionally, however, the effect of a past life with a substance use disorder continues to stall progress.  While the battle wages on and progress is being made, the need to restore public image, adjust to new social settings, overcome lost opportunities, and find confidence to succeed unfortunately remains.  

In one regard, the success of my client(s) in recovery has been slowed by the effect public records of past felony or misdemeanor arrests and/or convictions have caused.  Whether it be lost job opportunities, education, licensure, housing, or financial assistance, the public nature of these events takes a toll on progress. Recognizing these burdens, I am pleased to report that the Missouri legislature has provided an easier road to recovery for many of those affected by these consequences. 

On January 1, 2018, the Missouri Legislature adopted a revised version of Missouri’s expungement law, which makes a greater number of felony and misdemeanor convictions eligible to be erased from your criminal history. Expungement is a court-ordered process requiring the legal record of an arrest and/or criminal conviction be "sealed" or erased.  Prior to this year, the ability to seal or erase a criminal record of conviction in Missouri was limited to approximately 13 types of offenses.  This newly revised statute has expanded its reach to approximately 1,900 types of offenses, violations, or infractions, allowing courts greater authority to seal a criminal record, erase a criminal conviction, and restore a person’s rights.  

With any law, however, there are limits to its reach and this law is no different in that it prohibits expungement for certain specific offenses, violations, and infractions. The offenses not eligible for expungement include, but are not limited to class A Felonies, dangerous felonies, offenses that require registration as a sex offender, felonies that include death as an element of the offense, felony assaults, misdemeanor or felony domestic assault, felony kidnapping, and a number of other offenses (as listed in Section 610.140.2(6)).

That said, if it has been at least seven years (if the offense was a felony) or three years (if the offense was a misdemeanor, municipal offense, or infraction) from the date you completed a term of probation, sentence, or parole, you may be eligible to seek an order of expungement. To do so, one must file a petition for expungement in the court in which the person was charged or found guilty of the offense(s), violation(s), or infraction(s) he/she seeks to expunge.  If successful, the court shall order each entity possessing records of the arrest and/or conviction to close/seal the record in its possession and restore the rights of the person as if the arrest and/or conviction never occurred. In this regard, the Missouri legislature has just finished widening the road to recovery making a return to a normal state of health, mind, or strength and regaining your rights more possible.
In sum:

1.    If you have a felony or misdemeanor conviction in Missouri, your chances to expunge the conviction have greatly increased.
2.    There are limits; not every crime in Missouri can be expunged.
3.    You may be eligible if it has been at least 7 years (for a felony) or 3 years (for a misdemeanor, municipal offense, or infraction) from the completion of your probation or sentence.  
4.    You must file a petition for expungement in the county where the conviction was ordered.
5.    You must comply with all rules of procedure to successfully accomplish the intended goal of closing or sealing records of arrest or conviction.
6.    You must pay a $250.00 application fee.  The statute does allow for a waiver of this fee if a person is certified to be unable to pay. 
7.    If successful, the Court’s order allows you to answer “no” to an employer’s question into whether you have been convicted of a crime.
8.    If successful, any right restricted as a result of a conviction will be restored upon issuance of the court’s order.  

Ben McBride is a criminal defense attorney practicing in Springfield, Missouri and the surrounding area.  Mr. McBride’s practice has a strong focus on helping those dealing with legal issues related to substance use disorders.  If you, or someone you know, would like to speak with an attorney about expunging an arrest or criminal conviction, a legal issue related to substance use disorder, or any other criminal legal issue, please call The Law Office of Benjamin A. McBride at (417) 324-7580.

Mark Kelly