For many years, there has been some confusion and consternation about the airing period for expungements. Often, the period was considered to start on the date of discharge. However, many petitioners felt that the waiting period should start prior to the petition filing date.
The Court of Appeals has clarified the issue after approving a previous lower court decision. The lower court had determined that the waiting period should commence at the time of discharge. While the Court of Appeals ruling might seemingly make things clearer, the fact is that they did not provide an analysis of the lower court’s ruling, so petitioners will still maintain that the waiting period should count back from when the petition is filed.
The problem stemmed from some vague wording in the original statues. To qualify for an expungement, a petitioner must not be convicted of any crimes for the two years “since” the discharge of the crime they are petitioning. If that two year period starts from discharge, then there are many potential petitioners who are out of luck, since oftentimes they have committed several offenses within a small period before arrest. If that period is considered to be the time prior to the petition, then more people will be eligible for expungement, since they will have theoretically not been committing crimes during that time.
In the end, because the language was vague, the courts have determined that the waiting period will be the years prior to the petition. For instance, if someone is convicted of a crime, placed on probation, and discharged, and then commits another crime the following year, they may not have been eligible to have the original crime expunged. However, if they remain on the straight and narrow after that second conviction, they can now apply for expungement for the first crime with this clarification.
The process of expungement is meant to help those who wish to turn their lives around after being convicted of a crime. This ruling by the Court of Appeals will help many more of those who wish to do so.