A very common question on Avvo is how to get past criminal convictions expunged. Unfortunately, in Arizona there is no way to expunge a prior conviction. Instead, Arizona offers what is called a “set aside.” The set aside does just that, it sets aside the prior conviction. The practical impact of this is almost non-existent. The conviction still shows up on your record and you still have to answer “yes” on those employment forms that ask if you have ever been convicted of a crime. However, you now get to say “Yes, but it has been set aside.” This is a far better answer than a simple “yes” and many employers take that to me the same thing as an expungment.
Typically, individuals ask for their civil rights to be restored at the same time they ask for a set aside. When you are convicted of a felony, you lose your civil rights – such as your right to vote and your right to bear arms. If you are convicted of just a single felony, your right to vote will automatically be restored upon completion of your sentence, but your right to bear arms will not.
If you are convicted of a dangerous offense (an offense involving the discharge, use or threatened use of a deadly weapon) you can never have your gun rights restored. If you are convicted of a serious offense (Kidnapping, Robbery, Burglary, etc), you must wait 10 years from the date of discharge from prison or probation before you can request your gun rights be restored.
While the application process to set aside your conviction and have your rights restored is fairly simple, the background work required before you submit the application can sometimes be confusing. Navigating the various statutes and vague rules can often be a challenge.
If you are interested in having your conviction set aside and your rights restored, talk to a lawyer first. Most lawyers offer free initial consultations. Frequently I am able to tell potential clients how to do the process themselves to avoid having to pay a legal fee. I am always happy to see people have their rights restored and their convictions set aside, whether they do it themselves or whether they hire me to help them.