If you've been convicted of an Arizona crime, it can stay on your record until you are 99 years old. Fortunately, Arizona law provides you an opportunity to clean up your record under certain conditions. While many states refer to this process as "expungement," in Arizona it's called "setting aside a judgment." If you want to read the law for yourself, it's A.R.S. § 13-907. Confusing? Sadly, criminal statutes usually are. Instead of trying to figure it out, here's a breakdown of how to expunge/set aside a criminal record in Phoenix.
Can All Arizona Convictions Be Set Aside?
No, but most can. These crimes are not eligible:
What Do I Need to Do First?
Remember when the judge originally sentenced you? You'll have to have completed all the terms and conditions of your probation. That means you can't be on probation. Also, make sure you've completed any alcohol or substance abuse programs, and any anger management classes.
What about a Felony Conviction?
If you've been convicted of two or more felonies and/or sentenced to prison, you have to wait two years before applying for a judgment to set aside your conviction, to restore your gun rights and other civil rights.
Next, you'll file a petition in the county where you were convicted. In the Phoenix area, it's be with the Clerk of the Court for Maricopa County. A judge will consider whether or not to grant your petition.
If My Conviction Is Set Aside, Will It Still Show Up on a Background Check?
Yes, assuming it is a comprehensive background check. The law doesn't require that a conviction be removed from a person's criminal record. It is required that the record show that the conviction has been "set aside." Your criminal record will likely show the original charge and conviction, but also that it was "vacated" and the court entered an "order of dismissal." That may not sound all that great, but it's the best we've got in Arizona.
Why Should I Try to Get My Judgment Set Aside?
There are several reasons. It'll generally be easier to find a job, possibly possess a firearm again, get back into the voting booth, serve on a jury (who wouldn't want to do this?), and you'll have a notation of the "set aside" on your record.
Remember, laws frequently change. You should at least consider speaking with a qualified attorney or legal aid group about getting your criminal record "expunged" in Phoenix.
Contact a qualified attorney.