Sealing and Expunging Criminal Records in Arizona
Unlike other states in the U.S, Arizona does not have an expungement or sealing law. Sealing a criminal record involves restricting public access to the file. As such, the information contained in the records cannot be accessed or disclosed by anyone. The expungement of a criminal record, on the other hand, is the permanent removal of a conviction from an offender’s criminal case document, as if the trial never happened. A record sealed can still be accessed by court order; however, an expunged record cannot be accessed under any circumstances.
The Arizona Judicial Branch follows §13–905 of the Arizona Revised Statutes in matters regarding sealing and expungement. In Arizona, records are set aside rather than sealed or expunged. ‘Setting aside’ refers to the vacation of the judgment of guilt and dismissal of the charges against a convicted individual. However, a conviction set aside is not sealed away or expunged, and members of the public can access the case files. The documents will also appear during background checks. Nevertheless, to show the dismissal of charges, the court set aside order will also be visible. Persons not eligible to have criminal records set aside include offenders convicted of a criminal offense which:
- Involves the infliction of severe physical harm
- Involves the use or exhibition of a dangerous weapon or instrument
- Victimises a minor under fifteen years of age
- The offender is required by the court to register as a sex offender
- A sexual motivation occurred in the crime
- Involves the commission of certain driving offenses
The Difference Between Sealing and Expunging Criminal Records
Arizona’s laws do not make provisions for the sealing or expungement of records. The state of Arizona uses the set-aside law stated under §13–905 of the Arizona Revised Statutes. The set-aside law allows the vacation of the judgment of guilt against a convicted individual. Consequently, a set-aside sentence alleviates any penalty or disability imposed on the convicted individual, including restricted licenses, permits, and certificates. Sentences set aside are still visible to the public but also bear an indication of the court’s set-aside order.
Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching more straightforward, as they are not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:
- The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
- The location or assumed location of the record or person involved. This includes information such as the city, county, or state that the person resides in or was accused in
Third-party sites are independent of government sources and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party sites may vary.
How to Seal a Criminal Record in Arizona
Records cannot be sealed in Arizona, but a conviction can be ‘set aside.’ To have a verdict set aside, the sentenced individual must apply to the court after completing the imposed sentence or probation. Requestors will have to complete the Application to Set Aside Conviction form accurately. Individuals must direct the application to the judge, justice of the peace, or the magistrate who passed the judgment or the successor to any of these posts.
§13–905 of the Arizona Revised Statutes defines persons eligible for set aside. This definition excludes persons convicted of criminal offenses which fall under the following categories:
- Inflicted grievous physical harm on another human being
- Involved a dangerous weapon or instrument was used or displayed
- Involved a minor under 15 years of age was the victim of the crime
- Where the offender is mandated to register as a sex offender
- Where the crime was sexually motivated
- Where the offender was driving or operating a motor vehicle on a suspended or revoked license.
If the court grants the request, the court will dismiss the penalties and the overall conviction. However, the court cannot set aside convictions imposed by the Department of Transportation.
What Crimes Can Be Expunged in Arizona?
The state of Arizona does not have an expungement law. Thus expungement is not possible. However, setting aside a conviction is possible if the convicted person fulfills all the judgment requirements passed, including a jail sentence, a probation sentence, an alcohol or drug management program, or an anger management program. The convicted individual must also not have committed a felony or misdemeanor within six years of completing the sentence.
How to Expunge Criminal Records in Arizona
There is no procedure for expunging criminal records in Arizona, as Arizona does not have a criminal expungement law. Convictions can only be ‘set aside,’ which vacates the judgment passed and dismisses the charges against the convicted person. A person who wishes to set aside a sentence must send an application to the judge, magistrate, or justice of the peace who passed the judgment. If the judicial official who issued the verdict is no longer in office, the requestor should address the official’s successor’s application. An interested person can file for reconsideration with the same court if the court denies the application. Persons not eligible for Set Aside are defined under §13–905 of the Arizona Revised Statutes. In Arizona, setting aside a record is free.
Do Sealed Records Show up In Arizona Background Checks?
No. In most cases, a sealed record cannot show up in a background check. However, records set aside will appear during Arizona background check, and there will be an indication that the court set aside the conviction. The background check informs an employer that the convicted person has completed all mandated court orders.
Background checks in Arizona have limits, and the inquiry cannot extend further back beyond seven years. Nonetheless, background checks in Maricopa county extend through all a person’s life.
Who Can See Sealed Criminal Records in Arizona?
Any member of the public can see criminal records for which the convictions are set aside. Arizona’s public record law stated under §39–121 of the Arizona Revised Statutes that anyone can inspect public records during office hours. This law gives any interested party access to criminal records.
How to Obtain Sealed Records in Arizona
Sealed records do not exist in Arizona, and all case files are publicly available. Criminal records are made available to the public, according to Arizona’s public record law. The Arizona Judicial case search or third-party websites grant access to court records.