Life for most of us is just a series of mistakes. From messing up on tests to getting in trouble with the law, life has no shortage of situations for us to mess up in. Unfortunately, trouble with the law can keep people from certain opportunities, like getting a new job or moving into a new apartment. Luckily, the law allows for those mistakes to be erased under the right circumstances through a process known as expungement.
In our latest Law Office of W. Shane Jennings blog, we discuss the basics of expungement and chart a possible path for you to clean up your record with our firm!
What Is Expungement?
Expungement is the process of “sealing” the legal record of an arrest, conviction, indictment, acquittal, discharge, or dismissal by order of the court. In effect, this process will effectively erase the arrest or conviction in most cases from the general public. That means that you likely won’t have to mention that conviction or arrest when applying for something that asks for it.
A common misconception about expungement is that it will completely erase the blight off your record as if it never happened. This is not quite true. While you won’t have to say it happened, certain government agencies will still be able to see the record. In addition, the expunged conviction may still be considered as proof of prior conviction if a crime is committed afterward.
An expungement is a great tool for people to move on from their mistakes and capitalize on opportunities. However, as you can probably guess, expungement doesn’t work for all situations and crimes.
Expungement In New Mexico
Expungement in New Mexico has undergone a huge change in 2020. Effective January 1st, 2020, the Criminal Record Expungement Act drastically broadened the expungement powers of the New Mexico court system. Prior to this act, New Mexico had a very narrow expungement allowance, usually for juvenile issues or for victims of human trafficking that commit a crime (which are still part of New Mexico law).
The change in New Mexico’s expungement law is most driven by the idea giving people a chance to move on from arrests and convictions will give them the best chance at rehabilitation, as well as keep the public safe. With this act, New Mexico has one of the broadest expungement powers in the country.
Under this new act, most non-conviction and conviction records are eligible to be expunged given a set period without any additional charges or convictions. The period for non-convictions is one year, while convictions need periods of two to ten years before being eligible for expungement.
Eligibility does not equate to a guaranteed expungement. The judge presiding over your case will take into account several factors before making a final decision. Some of those factors include:
- Your age, employment history, and criminal history
- Any reasons to deny raised by the district attorney
- Specific benefits/consequences of denying expungement
- Gravity and circumstances of the original conviction
In these cases, having an expert lawyer with plenty of experience can give you the leg up needed to secure the expungement.
Expungement Of Conviction Records
Conviction records, unlike non-conviction records, have more detailed and stringent requirements. Under the new act, the date after the completion of a person’s sentence will start the mandatory waiting period which varies based on the crime. For violations of municipal ordinances, the waiting period is two years. Felonies will need a waiting period of 4 to 10 years, depending on the crime.
The law doesn’t allow the most serious municipal violations and felonies to be expunged, including but not limited to:
- Crimes involving a child
- Great bodily harm/death
Even if your conviction is eligible, though, that does not guarantee that the court will agree to expunge.
If you aren’t sure if your conviction qualifies, be sure to contact our office if you aren’t sure about your specific case.
Expungement Of Non-Conviction Records
Non-conviction records are a little more forgiving, mainly by having a much shorter waiting period. The waiting period for non-conviction records is just one-year, in which there may be no new charges.
Cases in which this section of the act apply are:
- Nolle prosequis
- Pre-prosecution referral to diversion
- Conditional discharge (minus deferred imposition of sentence)
- Other discharge
Just like with conviction records, though, there are some special circumstances in written into the law. If you aren’t sure about your specific case, feel free to contact our office and get more information.
Choose The Law Office Of W. Shane Jennings!
Interested in scrubbing your record in court? Due to New Mexico’s new stance on expungement, many more citizens will be eligible for expungement.
If you would like to get started or want more information on the new act, simply give us a call or visit our office today!