You made a mistake 15 years ago and were charged with a crime under Missouri law. Eventually, you pleaded guilty, received probation, and successfully completed it. You've lived a law-abiding life since that time and are a model citizen. However, the fact of that conviction or guilty plea still pops up from time to time. Is there anything you can do about getting it off your "record?" The legal term for striking or obliterating a criminal record is expungment. This article examines what remedies are available in Missouri to expunge a state criminal conviction or a probationary sentence that does not result in a conviction.
Convictions that can be Expunged.
Unfortunately, in Missouri, the only conviction that may be expunged is a first time alcohol-related misdemeanor conviction that is over ten-years old. Although Missouri law allows for the expungement of arrest records if a person meets certain requirements, Missouri law does not allow for the expungement of any other type of conviction. Also, Missouri courts do not have the equitable authority to expunge a criminal conviction. Equitable relief is generally available where no other remedy exists, however, Missouri law does not allow courts to exercise this authority to expunge convictions.
Conviction vs. Suspended Imposition of Sentence.
Missouri law allows for a suspended imposition of sentence in a criminal case. In other words, if a defendant enters a guilty plea and successfully completes probation, the criminal case is sealed and the defendant is not considered to be convicted of a crime. In this situation, when asked whether you have been convicted of a crime, you can say no. However, if asked whether you have ever entered a guilty plea to a crime, you must answer yes. Although the court record is sealed, it is still accessible to law enforcement and other entities under Missouri law. Like a criminal conviction, Missouri does not allow for the expungement of this record or even the underlying arrest record.
A person can always seek to have his or her conviction pardoned by the governor. Although a pardon does away with the effects of the conviction, it does not expunge the record of conviction. If you received a suspended imposition of sentence, you are not eligible to apply for a pardon because you have not been convicted. Instructions on how to apply for a pardon can be found on the Missouri Department of Corrections' website. Also, in limited circumstances,you may be able to attempt to withdraw your guilty plea, however, if successful, this would not be an expungment of your conviction but would start the criminal process over again.
With the one exception noted above, Missouri law does not allow for the expungement of a criminal conviction. Furthermore, if you received a suspended imposition of sentence it cannot be expunged because it is not a conviction. Anyone seeking to expunge a criminal conviction, seek a pardon, or challenge a guilty plea or conviction, in anyway, should talk to an attorney experienced in the area of criminal law. This attorney should also have experience in post-conviction matters.