The terms “expungement” and “expunction” are used interchangeably to mean the same thing: making one’s criminal record inaccessible to most future seekers in order to give that individual a better chance of securing employment or housing and the ability to maintain a more positive public reputation. This legal process is also sometimes known as sealing the individual’s record, because that is figuratively what happens – the individual’s criminal record is “sealed shut,” keeping it off the public record.
To have an offense expunged from your record, you must file a Petition to Expunge Court Record of Conviction with the court that handled your original case. Wisconsin’s expungement law and process are fairly strict compared to other state’s laws. You are advised to work with an experienced Appleton criminal defense lawyer to craft and submit your petition. Your lawyer can explain the entire expungement process to you, determine if you qualify for one, and file the petition on your behalf.
The primary reason for seeking an expungement is to separate yourself from your previous criminal record. Benefits of having your record expunged include:
An expungement does not grant an individual the right to claim he or she has never been convicted of a crime. It does, however, provide a way to explain that he or she has served his or her sentence and that the charge has been expunged.
Certain offenses are required to be expunged if the individual was under the age of 18 when he or she committed them and he or she served all portions of his or her sentence. These include:
For adult offenders, a conviction can be expunged if the individual was under the age of 25 when it occurred, if it carried a maximum imprisonment term of six years or less, and the individual fully served all parts of his or her sentence. Arrests that did not result in conviction can also be removed from adult offenders’ records, but dismissed charges cannot be. If the offense somehow involved the individual’s driver’s license, such as an OWI, it cannot be expunged. The court also has the right to deny an expungement for any reason it deems valid.
For adult offenders, felony offenses can only be expunged if they were nonviolent Class H or Class I offenses and the individual does not have other felony conviction on his or her record.
The expungement process begins with the Petition to Expunge Court Record of Conviction. In this document, the petitioner must acknowledge that he or she has completed all terms of his or her sentence and that he or she does not have new charges pending.
The court can accept or deny the petition. It can also request a hearing with the petitioner to discuss the issue further. If you are asked to attend a hearing, be prepared to discuss what you have done after you completed your sentence. If the court opts to grant the expungement, your conviction is removed from the Wisconsin Circuit Court Access (WCCA) database, meaning that it is no longer visible in routine public record searches. It is not completely deleted from government records, though. It will still exist in the Wisconsin Crime Information Bureau database and will be accessible through criminal background checks.
Your expungement petition will have a much better chance of being accepted and resulting in the sealing of your criminal record if you work with an experienced criminal defense lawyer to complete the process. This is because our Appleton criminal defense lawyers have experience working with the Winnebago County Circuit Court and understand how to effectively petition for expungement. To start working with a member of our team at Hammett, Bellin & Oswald, LLC, contact our office to set up your initial consultation in our office.