This is the first post in my series discussing why it is important to hire an attorney when one is interested in setting aside (often referred to as expungement) their conviction in the state of Arizona. This series is being written for two reasons. First, many believe that hiring an attorney is unaffordable and that an attorney is unable to achieve a better outcome than doing it alone. Secondly, there is a great deal of misinformation out there regarding exactly what an expungement can do for someone, what an expungement does not do, and how an expungement will effect employment, housing, and many other opportunities. Throughout the course of this series I will be addressing the questions which I am asked most often, in addition to providing information about the process of setting aside (expunging) a record. My goal with this blog series is to provide you with information that you can use to make the best decision when looking into expungement.

During this series, I will write about different aspects of expungement in more depth. Topics that I will cover include:

  • What is the difference between a conviction set aside and an expungement?
  • A discussion of why hiring an attorney can benefit you and give you a higher likelihood of success than trying to do it on your own.
  • The requirements for having a conviction set aside for both felonies and misdemeanors, as well as having civil rights and gun rights restored.
  • The process of setting aside a conviction and having rights restored and how it differs from Court to Court.
  • A clear discussion of the benefits that come with having your conviction set aside, as well as an honest assessment of what does not happen after a set aside.

Over 90% of defendants end up pleading guilty in Phoenix and Maricopa County Courts. The reasons for pleading guilty are vast, but often people wish they had spoken with an attorney before entering their plea or at least considered going to trial. By pleading guilty defendants give up their right to appeal, leaving them with a permanent criminal record. Criminal convictions of any type (whether they are misdemeanors or felonies) remain on a person’s background check forever. There is no such thing as the record of the conviction “going away” after five, ten, or even 50 years. Whether it is a felony or a misdemeanor, there are many consequences to a criminal conviction that haunt people long after they have finished their sentence. Unfortunately these consequences are rarely, if ever, discussed or contemplated when making the decision to enter a guilty plea.

Consequences of convictions can include the permanent loss of civil rights like voting, firearms ownership, and being able to serve on a jury. But they also include many other things like the inability to obtain a job or housing for even the most minor misdemeanor convictions; hurdles and barriers in getting a license to be a nurse, teacher, contractor, and almost any other regulated profession exist. All of a sudden what seemed to be a “minor offense” follows people wherever they go. Fortunately in Arizona there is something that you can do about it: move the Court to set aside your conviction.

What does it mean to have a criminal record? It means a background check will come back as showing that the person was convicted of a crime and “adjudicated guilty.” Depending on the background check company that is used (there are over 400), there may be more information available such as sentencing details. By having your conviction set aside (or expunged as that is often the term that is used) your background check will look very different. Instead of saying “adjudicated guilty” it will say “conviction vacated/set aside, accusations and charges dismissed.” In further posts I will discuss exactly how that can help a person in many different areas of life. Getting legal advice when it comes to expungement and the restoration of civil rights is a good idea before making any decisions, and because most Phoenix lawyers offer free consultations there is no reason not to give one a call.

If you have found your criminal past to be haunting you then don’t make the mistake of taking action without solid legal advice. Contact a Phoenix criminal defense and expungement lawyer today.