Convictions and criminal records can have a significant impact upon a person's life. For example, a person's criminal records can hinder their ability to obtain government benefits, secure student loans or live in certain apartment communities.
There are steps people can take to lessen the negative impact a conviction can have on their lives. Although criminal records are not extinguishable in Arizona a person can apply to have their conviction set aside. Under A.R.S. 13-905, One of the requirements imposed by the legislature is that an individual seeking to have their conviction set aside must completely fulfill all of the conditions of probation or sentence and have been discharged by the court
The Effect of a Conviction Set Aside
A Set Aside does not eliminate a criminal conviction such as an expungement (which is not available in Arizona). Any search of a person's criminal history will still include the conviction. However, there will be a notation indicating that the conviction was Set Aside. This means that you have fulfilled all of the terms of your sentence. Additionally, the case will be dismissed and the judgment of guilt previously entered against you will be vacated. All disabilities and penalties resulting from the conviction are forgiven except:
- Those imposed by the Department of Transportation
- Those imposed by the Game and Fish commission
- Information related to the conviction as used in a subsequent prosecution for other criminal offenses
- Convictions which are set aside can still be considered by the Department of Public Safety when examining a fingerprint clearance card application.
The Benefits of setting Aside a Conviction
Although a conviction which has been set aside will still appear on your criminal record, there are several benefits to having this completed. Initially, it is a sign to others that you are serious about your future and took steps to avoid additional legal difficulties. Also:
- Employment - Although you would have to disclose the conviction on a job application, many employers look positively at set asides as there is a showing that the judgment of guilt has been vacated and charged have been dismissed.
- Housing - Similar to employment, landlords will want information regarding a person's criminal history, convictions, etc. An order which sets aside a conviction and dismisses a criminal charge can be viewed in a positive light if an applicant for housing is asked to explain prior arrests.
Offenses Which Cannot Be Set Aside
Unfortunately, certain offenses are not eligible to be set aside. These include:
- Dangerous Offenses
- Offenses for which a person is ordered to register as a sex offender
- Offenses which include a finding of sexual motivation by the court
- Felony offenses involving a victim under the age of 15
Finally, although a conviction is set aside, there are limitations which still apply. Again, the conviction must be disclosed when completing job applications as it will still appear on your criminal record with a notation that the conviction has been set aside. Moreover, felony offenses can result in the suspension or loss of civil rights such as the right to vote or possess a firearm. An application to restore civil rights should be made separately. Finally, even though a conviction is set aside, it can still be used against someone who is prosecuted for criminal charges in the future.