When Missouri residents who have been convicted of crimes have their records expunged, they can find it easier to get a job or rent an apartment. There was a time when that rarely happened, but the state’s expungement law was revised in 2021. Only about a dozen crimes could be expunged before the law was changed, but now more than 1,900 offenses qualify for expungement. When a criminal record is expunged, it is no longer available to employers, landlords or anyone else. Only a court order can reopen an expunged record, and this does happen very often.
Criminal records can only be expunged when offenders have paid their fines and completed their parole or probation. Misdemeanor offenders must not reoffend for one year before they can be granted an expungement, and felony offenders must stay on the right side of the law for three years. Before the expungement law was changed, the waiting periods were three and seven years, respectively. To seek an expungement, an offender must submit a petition in the court where they were convicted and sentenced and pay a $250 fee. A judge may waive the fee if paying it would cause undue financial hardship.
Hearings are held before expungements are granted. When expungement petitions are prepared, offenders must list the law enforcement agencies and prosecutors involved in their case as defendants. These defendants are then given 30 days to object to the expungement. A hearing is held even if none of the defendants object, so offenders who do not want to take any chances often ask their criminal defense attorneys to advocate on their behalf. When expungements are denied, offenders can either file an appeal or wait a year and try again.
The expungement process protects society because it gives offenders a chance to put their pasts behind them and enjoy the benefits of society. When offenders are denied opportunities because of acts they committed years ago and have paid for in full, they are more likely to commit more crimes. The criminal justice system should rehabilitate offenders whenever possible, and expungement helps to achieve this goal.