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Understanding Arizona’s New Expungement Laws

— July 18, 2022

In 2023, Arizona will adopt new expungement and record sealing laws that allow people to fully remove their criminal records. 

When information or records are expunged, they are removed, struck out, or destroyed in computers, files, and other depositories. In most U.S. states, people can have their criminal record expunged, depending on the nature of the crimes they were charged with. Certain crimes (such as murder, capital offenses, assault with a deadly weapon, or sexual offenses) may not be eligible for expungement. When an expungement is granted, some states even go so far as to remove the person’s arrest record from all databases, thus allowing them to deny that they were arrested for a crime in the first place. 

However, not all states offer expungement. Some states, such as Arizona, have historically only allowed people to “set aside” existing convictions. In such a circumstance, a person’s criminal record and conviction will still be accessible, albeit with a notation that the judgement in their case has been set aside. However, in 2023, Arizona will adopt new expungement and record sealing laws that allow people to fully remove their criminal records. 

What Are Arizona’s New Expungement Laws?

Expanding upon Arizona Revised Statute (ARS) 13-905, which allows individuals to set aside existing criminal convictions, the state has since passed an additional two laws on expungement and record sealing. In July 2021, Arizona passed ARS 36-2862 and ARS 13-911. With these new laws coming into play in January 2023, Arizona’s expungement laws are on par with most other states in the U.S. 

What Does ARS 36-2862 Do?

ARS 36-2862 provides relief to those that have been arrested, convicted, or charged with a range of marijuana-related offenses. The crimes that fall within this law’s jurisdiction include:

  • Processing, transporting, possessing, or cultivating no more than six marijuana plants at a person’s place of residence for their own personal use
  • Transporting, possessing, or consuming 2.5 ounces or less of marijuana
  • Transporting, possessing, or using paraphernalia that is used for the purpose of manufacturing, consuming, cultivating, or processing marijuana

It’s important to note that this law does not grant relief to those who have been convicted of distributing or selling marijuana. All of the offenses that fall under the law’s purview have to do with personal use, cultivation, or transportation of marijuana. To take advantage of ARS 36-2862, you need to fill out the proper paperwork and submit it to your county’s courthouse. A hearing may be held if requested by the case’s prosecutor or the applicant. Based on the information gathered, the petition may then be granted at the court’s discretion. 

What Does ARS 13-911 Do?

ARS 13-911 came into existence as a component of Senate Bill 1294, which passed on July 9th, 2021. This new law is the state’s first piece of record-sealing legislation. Under ARS 13-911, people may petition to have their case records sealed if they meet certain conditions. The law provides relief to those who have been:

  • Arrested for a criminal offense in which no charges were filed
  • Charged with a criminal offense, before being found not guilty at trial or having their charge dismissed
  • Convicted of a crime and who have since met all the conditions of their court-imposed sentence

Those who are granted relief under this law will have their criminal records sealed, meaning that they cannot be accessed by members of the public. A person’s criminal record would no longer appear in background checks and they would not have to admit to being arrested or convicted of a crime on job or housing applications. 

What is a Certificate of Second Chance?

A third law relating to record expungement was also passed in 2021. House Bill 2067 created a new type of judicial certificate for relief. This “Certificate of Second Chance” allows eligible people to have their records set aside and receive total rehabilitation in Arizona. A person who receives a Certificate of Second Chance restores their right to obtain professional certifications that are usually barred to those with criminal convictions. Teaching, medical care, construction, and childcare are industries that have traditionally been difficult to enter with a criminal record, which may change with the passage of House Bill 2067.

Are There Any Offenses in Arizona That May Not Be Sealed in 2023 & Beyond?

Handcuffs with key on a fingerprint sheet; image by Bill Oxford, via
Handcuffs with key on a fingerprint sheet; image by Bill Oxford, via

SB 1294 does not set exclusions based on how many convictions a person has on their record. However, there are specific offenses that are not yet eligible for expungement or record sealing. These include:

  • Class 1 felonies 
  • Some sexual offenses
  • Some serious violent offenses
  • Knowingly inflicting serious bodily harm on someone else
  • Offenses related to the use, exhibition, or discharge of a firearm or deadly weapon

Offenses involving the sale of marijuana may not be expunged under ARS 36-2862. However, an individual willing to go through the mandatory waiting period to file for relief under ARS 13-911 may have their record sealed.

Even With New Expungement Laws, Seek Legal Help When Charged

Arizona’s new expungement and record sealing laws go a long way towards giving people a chance to restart their lives free of the burden of criminal charges. However, it’s nonetheless important to remember that not all crimes and convictions are covered under Arizona’s new laws. As soon as you are aware that you’ve been accused of or charged with a crime, you should immediately contact a reputable, local criminal defense attorney. They may be able to highlight flaws in the prosecutor’s case and get your charges dismissed or reduced significantly. 

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