Everyone makes mistakes, and at the Law Group, we believe that people can learn and grow from their past. However, a criminal record can give employers, landlords, and other people legal permission to discriminate against you. You may not be eligible for certain federal assistance, and you could find some housing is not an option, depending on your crime.
Sealing your record – expungement – can make many aspects of your life easier and better. After an expungement, you can say you weren’t arrested, charged, or convicted of a crime. You won’t have to put your conviction on a job or rental application. It won’t come up on most routine background checks.
What is an Expungement in Arkansas?
In Arkansas, expunging a criminal record means the court seals it, and it becomes confidential. The records will still exist, but they won’t be available to the public.
Juvenile criminal records are automatically sealed unless the juvenile is tried as an adult. This automatic protection is not available for adults.
Expungement is only available in certain circumstances, and you must satisfy all the conditions required when expungement is available. The arrest, charge, or conviction must meet the guidelines for expungement, and you must have completed all the requirements of your sentence. Some convictions require you to wait a period after completing those requirements before they can be expunged. It’s best to talk with an Arkansas expungement lawyer about whether it’s an option for you now or in the future.
The Expungement Process
An expungement in Arkansas is a Petition and Order to Seal. There isn’t one form for an expungement. You’ll have to use the correct form based on your conviction and sentence. It’s easiest to work with an expungement lawyer in Arkansas who understands the process.
We help you through the expungement process, including:
- Judgment and Commitment Order. This is available from the Clerk of the Court for a small fee.
- Arrest tracking number. This information is available through the Arkansas Crime Information Center.
- Proof you completed your sentence. This documentation shows that you completed your probation and paid all court costs and fines and is provided by the Probation Office and the Clerk of the Court. Some probation offices will not release you from probation without filing a separate petition asking the Court to end the probation requirement.
Our attorneys will help you with these steps. We know they can be daunting. We’ll gather the paperwork and information you need. After completing the forms accurately, we’ll file them with the court where you were sentenced.
We file the necessary forms with the court and give a copy to the prosecuting attorney. We’ll make sure the appropriate agencies receive notice of your petition, and the required documentation is included with that petition.
If no one objects to your petition, the judge can sign the order to seal your record. There is a 30-day waiting period for judges unless the prosecutor gives the court a letter of no objection.
Once the judge signs the order, it’s filed with the Circuit Clerk, and then copies are sent to the agencies that need to know to seal your record. We’ll make sure your expungement is implemented correctly.
Expungement Eligibility Guidelines
You may have a right to expunge a criminal record in many situations:
You Weren’t Convicted
You may have records of an arrest or criminal charge sealed if the charge was dropped or dismissed, or you won an acquittal at trial. In other words, if an arrest didn’t lead to a conviction, you can have those records expunged.
You Were Convicted of a Misdemeanor
Once you complete all of the conditions of your criminal sentence for a misdemeanor, you can wait 60 days then ask for an expungement. Certain misdemeanor convictions have a five-year waiting period.
It Was a Low-Level Felony & You Served No Jail Time
You can ask for an unclassified, Class C, or Class D felony to be expunged, as long as you served no time in the Arkansas Department of Corrections. High-level felonies aren’t eligible for expungement at all.
You Were a Minor
If you were convicted of a misdemeanor or non-violent felony, and the crime took place when you were a minor, you can ask the court to seal your record. Sometimes this is an automatic process for certain crimes committed as a juvenile.
You Were Convicted of Certain Drug Crimes
You can pursue an expungement after completing a drug court program or after completing probation for drug possession. However, there are several exceptions and rules around expungements for drug crimes. It’s essential you talk with you a lawyer about whether you’re eligible and the process for asking for an expungement.
You Were a First-Time Offender
After pleading guilty or no contest to your first criminal charge, the judge may give you probation. After you complete the term of probation and any other conditions, you can ask the court to seal your record. This request must be made at the time of the conviction being entered.
This does not apply if your first offense:
- Was a high-level felony;
- Required time to be served in the Arkansas Department of Corrections;
- Required you to register as a sex offender;
- Was a particular sex crime; or
- Exposed someone to HIV.
You Were Convicted of Certain Crimes
If you complete your sentence for an offense targeted for community correction placement, you can ask for an expungement. However, this doesn’t apply if you were previously convicted of certain felonies or more than one felony.
These are simplified explanations. Each of these situations comes with various eligibility requirements, which is why it’s important to talk with a lawyer.
Convictions That Cannot Be Expunged
There are several criminal records that cannot be expunged:
- A sex crime committed against a victim younger than 18
- A felony with any time served in the Arkansas Department of Corrections
- Any Class Y felony
- A Class A or Class B felony that wasn’t a drug crime or manslaughter
- An unclassified felony with a maximum sentence of more than 10 years
- A violent felony by a habitual offender
You also aren’t eligible if you have three or more felony convictions.
Expungement Waiting Periods
You must wait 60 days for most misdemeanors. Others may be longer.
There is a five-year waiting period to expunge:
- Eligible violent Class C and Class D felonies
- Class A misdemeanor negligent homicide
- Driving while intoxicated
- Third-degree battery
- Indecent exposure
- Public sexual indecency
- Fourth-degree sexual assault
- Third-degree domestic battering
Are You Eligible for Expungement?
Don’t let a criminal record stand in the way of your future. Find out if you’re eligible to seal your record by talking with an Arkansas expungement lawyer. If you’re eligible now or will be in the next few years, you should prepare to file your petition. Even if you can’t file yet, talking with an attorney helps you get ready to file the paperwork as soon as possible.
Contact The Law Group of Northwest Arkansas LLP
Our criminal defense attorneys at The Law Group of Northwest Arkansas LLP can help you through expungement so you get a fresh start in life. Call us at (479) 316-3760 for a free consultation or reach out through our online form.