Sealing of Records in Arizona
As of January 1, 2023, Arizona will have one of the most far-reaching sealing laws in the country thanks to the passing of SB 1294 which enacts Arizona Revised Statute § 13-911. Under this statute, an eligible person is able to file for a sealing of records; with a sealed record, that person can answer “no” if they are ever asked if they have been arrested by housing, employment, financial aid, and loan applications. While those records could still be accessed for subsequent convictions, the Arizona Department of Public Safety would seal those records and they would not be able to be accessed during regular background checks. Once sealed, the only people who would have access to the records are the subject of the record, to the victim (if they have exercised victim's rights), enforcement agencies, courts, corrections agencies, and child protective agencies.
What does it take to seal a record?
The first step to petitioning the court for a sealing of records is to determine if you are eligible to have your record sealed. Like all other Arizona laws regarding Set-Asides and Expungements, there are exceptions and rules to having a record sealed.
Most convictions except for Class 1 felonies and certain violent and sexual offenses are eligible for sealing. The law does not currently limit the number of convictions that may be sealed, and there is no restriction on how many times a person can request records be sealed.
The first step to being eligible for record sealing is to complete all terms of the sentence imposed by the court. This means paying all fines, restitution, completing all jail time, community service hours, or other such stipulations that the court applied to your case. Once you have done that, then it is a matter of how long it has been since you have completed the terms of your sentencing:
For Class 2 and 3 felonies – 10 years
For Class 4, 5, and 6 felonies – 5 years
For Class 1 misdemeanors – 3 years
For all lower grade misdemeanors – 2 years
There are certain things that may exclude your particular case from being eligible for a sealing of records even if the above time frames have been met and all conditions of your sentencing have been met. Stephen R. Glazer and Jacob R. Smets, criminal defense attorneys with Glazer, Hammond & Ruben PLLC can help you navigate the complexities of eligibility.
My Attorney has Filed my Petition, now what?
Once a petition is filed, there is a waiting period before the court rules on it in order to allow the prosecutor to fulfill certain duties. The prosecutor must notify any victim who has requested to receive notice for their case, and from there the court must wait 30-45 days to act on anything that has been filed unless the prosecutor and victim (if applicable) have both given word that they have no objection to the motion. Otherwise, the prosecutor is able to make a response to the motion which the court would also have to consider.
The Department of Public Safety (DPS) must also prepare a comprehensive report that includes any and all federal and state arrests and prosecutions. The court is able to request additional information as well, and DPS can voluntarily provide additional information if the agency believes it would benefit the court.
From there, the court will make a ruling based on what the court believes is in the best interest of the petitioner and the public's safety. During this process, there is the possibility of a fee being charged for the report and the actual act of sealing records.
Once an order is issued, DPS will seal the record and provide verification of the record being sealed. The statute may require you to pay for the case to be sealed separately from fees that have already been paid.
This law also allows for non-conviction records to be sealed from public records. This would apply to uncharged arrests, dismissed cases, and acquitted charges.
If you are interested in a more detailed breakdown, Mr. Smets authored an article at AVVO.com with more information Click here to read Mr. Smets' article on AVVO.com.
The sealing of records is a complex process with a lot of nuances and specific requirements. Call 928-213-5916 today to speak with an attorney about your case.