Does Arizona have “clean slate laws?” Let’s take a closer look at the automatic record clearing process and whether Arizonans reap the benefits.
What Is a Clean Slate Law?
Automatic record clearing or “clean slate” laws refer to the automatic erasure of old crimes – usually misdemeanors – once the person has completed their sentence. This allows those who have served their sentence and completed probation to get relief from a criminal record.
The following states have either automatic or conditional clean slate laws:
- Kentucky (starting July 15, 2020)
- New Jersey
- New York
- North Carolina (beginning after December 1, 2021)
- North Dakota
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
Most of these states have limited or conditional record clearing for specific crimes like drug possession or dismissed cases. In most cases, the court won’t allow an offense to be erased if the individual was found guilty and convicted in court, but if the case was dismissed or the crime was nonviolent, the crime might be automatically cleared.
How Does Automatic Record Clearing Work?
Depending on the state, record clearing may look a little different. Most of the states listed in the previous section allow arrest data to be deleted when a crime is dismissed or nonviolent crimes and misdemeanors to be erased.
There’s no standardized practice for automatic record clearing, and states with clean slate laws must navigate this relatively uncharted territory independently. For the most part, it appears that automatic record sealing/erasing is slowly evolving and changing over time as lawmakers warm up to the idea and the public begins to see merit in erasing minor crimes.
Record Clearing vs. Expungement
The main difference between record clearing and expungement is that the court clears your record, but you must apply for expungement. While the final decision on expunction belongs to the court, you have to start the process by completing a Certificate of Actual Innocence that details why your record should be erased and your intent to avoid reoffending.
Record clearing and expungement are usually only options for people with a new or limited criminal record, meaning they have not committed many crimes or violent offenses. If you are a repeat offender, the court is less likely to delete or erase your record regardless of how much you’ve changed.
For the most part, automatic record clearing helps those accused of minor drug crimes like possession by allowing them to learn from their mistake and still have a normal life.
What About Arizona?
Unfortunately, there are no clean slate laws in Arizona. Unless lawmakers pursue the issue, it seems unlikely that similar laws will be passed any time soon.
Most of the efforts to amend criminal justice laws in our state are directed toward reforming prisons, data collection, and sentencing. Until clean slates become a priority, those charged with a crime will need to pursue expunction.
Territorial Law will continue to follow this topic.