Having a criminal record can close many doors to education and employment, often for the rest of a person’s life. Nearly everyone who survives their youth eventually comes to wish they could go back in time to undo something they did then. Of course, you can’t undo the past.
However, many laws across the United States allow the next best thing, always in very carefully defined circumstances. These chances to legally seal or erase a criminal record have given many people a humane way to start again.
Sealing and expunging records
In some cases, states have procedures for sealing arrests or convictions, typically concealing the details but revealing some basic data.
In other cases, states allow the expungement of records, typically allowing the person to legally act as if the arrest or conviction never, in fact, occurred at all.
Before July of this year, Mississippi kept only the following slim catalog of crimes that were eligible for expungement under the right conditions:
- Theft of personal property (larceny)
- Passing bad checks
- Theft through false pretenses
- Destruction of property (malicious mischief)
- Drug or paraphernalia possession
Criminal Justice Reform Act ads many expungable crimes
With the new reform act, it is now more difficult to list the expungement-eligible crimes because the new list is a dense thicket of exceptions and conditions. In general, any crime can be eligible unless it falls under one of these exceptions.
For felonies, the act excludes sex crimes and violent crimes, as well as few potentially non-violent felonies such as a third, fourth or later DUI, drug trafficking, and embezzlement.
Once a person has fulfilled all the conditions of their sentence, they have a five-year wait before they can apply for an expungement. They can apply for expungement related to only one conviction, although this can include multiple crimes stemming from a single incident.