Determining Whether Your Criminal Conviction Can Be Set Aside or Reduced in Idaho
If you need to clean up your criminal record in Idaho, expungement isn't generally an option. In many circumstances, however, you can get your felony or misdemeanor charges reduced or dismissed. This guide briefly explains whether you qualify and how to get the conviction dismissed or reduced.
Qualifying for Dismissing a Felony and MisdemeanorThe Idaho legislature has enacted laws that help you get your criminal convictions dismissed. If you qualify and can have your record cleaned up, you will be in a better position to find more gainful employment, qualify for housing, and enjoy other life opportunities. Under Idaho law, if you have pled guilty to or been found guilty of a crime, you can have your conviction reduced or dismissed if 1) the criminal case meets certain statutory requirements and 2) the judge believes that good cause exists to grant you the relief. This process is explained in Idaho Code section 19-2604(1). Your case qualifies if i) your sentence was suspended or you received a withheld judgment, ii) your felony sentence was commuted, iii) your felony conviction did not result in a sentence to the custody of the board of correction, iv) you successfully completed a drug court or mental health court program, or v) your misdemeanor sentence did not include a term in the county jail. If your case meets one of these requirements, you must also show that you did not violate probation and that, if applicable, you successfully completed and graduated from an authorized drug court program or mental health court program. After meeting these requirements, the judge will determine whether good cause exists to grant you the requested relief (you should certainly request a complete dismissal). The court can grant this request and set aside and dismiss the felony or misdemeanor conviction, or it can alternatively reduce a felony to a misdemeanor. If you are still on probation, the court can also release you from probation. Basically, the judge has discretion to do whatever he or she feels proper.
Qualifying for Reducing a Felony to a MisdemeanorProbably the most common reason for not qualifying for a complete dismissal is having a probation violation. If you don't qualify for a complete dismissal, your probably can't do anything about a misdemeanor conviction. But if you have a felony, you may qualify for a reduction to a misdemeanor, which is helpful on background checks, job applications, etc. Under Idaho law, a felony--even after a probation violation--can be reduced to a misdemeanor if, like above, 1) the criminal case meets certain different statutory requirements and 2) the judge believes that good cause exists to grant you the relief. This process is explained in Idaho Code section 19-2604(3). Specifically, this section explains that once you have been discharged from probation, you can seek a reduction, but you'll need the prosecutor to stipulate to a reduction if less than five years have passed since being discharged from probation. If more than five years have passed, you only need the prosecutor to stipulate to a reduction for certain convictions, such as assault or battery with intent to commit a serious felony, enticing of children, murder in the first or second degree, voluntary manslaughter, and others. The code lists these convictions out. In addition, your felony conviction cannot be reduced if you have been convicted of a felony following the felony you want reduced. And you also cannot be currently charged with any crime. Then, if you still qualify, the judge has discretion to grant a reduction.
Process of Applying for a Dismissal or ReductionIf you qualify for reduction, a few simple steps will help you get your charges either dismissed or reduced: 1) Contact the prosecutor. Talk with the prosecutor and explain your circumstances. Ask if he or she objects to a motion to dismiss or reduce. If the prosecutor does not object, he'll likely agree to sign a stipulation to that effect, and judges may not question a motion for dismissal or reduction if the prosecutor is on board. 2) File a motion and memorandum with the court. This is the formal requirement for a dismissal or reduction. The memorandum should help the judge understand the law--even though he may be very familiar with the law--and explain why good cause exists for the reduction. If you do not know how to draft a motion and memorandum, an attorney can help you out. 3) File an affidavit explaining your circumstances. In addition to the motion and memorandum, you should file a notarized statement that explains why you qualify for relief and why you believe that good cause exists to grant the requested relief. It is better to admit wrongs and show improvement than to justify past mistakes. 4) Submit a proposed order. Judges like to minimize work, and if you submit a proposed order dismissing or reducing the charges, the judge may sign the order without a hearing, especially if the prosecutor signs a stipulation. 5) If necessary, set a hearing. If the judge doesn't agree to dismiss the charges based on the filings, you may need to be prepared to have a hearing on the matter. This is more likely if the prosecutor doesn't sign a stipulation. Be prepared to show remorse for your past wrongs, improvement after the conviction, and a good reason for the dismissal or reduction. For example, you may not be able to get a job with the conviction on your record. These steps can be tedious and complex, so it is always helpful to have an experienced lawyer who can assist you. A lawyer can also help you better understand if you qualify for relief under Idaho Code section 19-2604.