Can I Get a Felony Expunged?

A criminal conviction can have a significant impact on your life. There are professional and personal consequences after you’re found guilty of a criminal act. You may face jail time or fines and will have the crime on your permanent public record.

So, long after your jail time is served, the criminal conviction can factor into your professional opportunities. For example, even a minor offense can affect a nursing license, pilot’s license, security clearances, your ability to keep your current job, and your right to own a firearm.

Criminal charges and convictions can also affect your child custody rights and increase your risk of post-traumatic stress disorder. Discrimination may affect your reputation and your ability to get a new job. Each of these is a good reason for seeking expungement of a felony conviction.

What Is a Felony?

If you’re charged with a crime, it may be a misdemeanor or a felony. A misdemeanor is a less serious crime with shorter jail sentences and fewer fines. For example, if your blood alcohol level is over the limit and you get pulled over for OWI, you may be charged with a misdemeanor. However, if there are children in the car or your alcohol level is severely over the limit, you could face a felony charge.

Felony convictions usually result in a prison sentence of at least one year or longer. There is an element of violence, and the crimes tend to be considered harmful or dangerous. When serving your sentence, people with felony convictions are assigned to the state prison system rather than county jail.

There are nine classes of felonies in Wisconsin. They are labeled by letters from A to I and classified by the seriousness of the offense. For example, class A felonies are the most serious and have the most severe punishment, including life in prison.

Class H felonies in Wisconsin are punishable by up to six years in prison and a maximum fine of $10,000 or both. Class H felonies can include your fourth charge of operating while intoxicated (OWI) or your second OWI charge while causing injury. Also included are false imprisonment, felony bail jumping, and aggravated battery with great bodily harm.

Class I felonies in Wisconsin are punishable by up to 3.5 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000 for both. Examples of a Class I felony include destruction of property worth more than $2,500, possession of marijuana with intent to sell, threatening stalking, aggravated battery causing substantial bodily harm, or arson of property other than a building.

What Is Expungement and Who Is Eligible?

Wisconsin law allows criminal records for an adult to be expunged in limited circumstances. This means that the record is either erased or sealed. If the court does expunge your record, any potential employer cannot consider that record even if it’s related to the job you’re applying for.

It is not uncommon for the court to issue expungement orders in juvenile court proceedings. This is not forgiveness (legal pardon) for committing the crime. Likewise, a pardon does not mean that the criminal record was expunged. Expungement proceedings happen in State courts and under state law.

The process is reserved for charges for which you were found guilty. However, if you were arrested and released without being charged, you may be able to have the arrest removed from your record.

Generally, the more serious the crime, the less likely it is that the court will expunge your record. Some factors will affect the Court’s consideration, including:

  • If you were a minor when the crime was committed
  • The time that’s passed since conviction or arrest
  • If you completed all court-ordered requirements

Those who are eligible to have their arrests or convictions expunged under Wisconsin law are people who have committed certain Class H or I felonies if they were under the age of 25 and after they completed their sentence. A juvenile may also make a request after they reach the age of 17.

However, while the court may expunge the record, there will continue to be a record of the conviction in the Wisconsin criminal history repository that may be found during a background check.

If you are arrested and fingerprinted, but later released without any charge or cleared of the offense, then Wisconsin law allows for removal of that fingerprint from the record.

What Can Be Expunged or Sealed in Wisconsin?

Under Wisconsin law, records are permitted to be expunged after a person was found guilty and when the sentence has been completed. Only misdemeanors and Class H or Class I felonies are permitted to be expunged. If you were convicted before July 1, 2009, the conviction can only be expunged if you were under 21 when you committed the offense, and then only if you were convicted of a misdemeanor.

Under the current law, expungement decisions must be made at the time of sentencing. This has been challenged and upheld in court. If your expungement is granted, the court records are destroyed.

If you were arrested, charged, and convicted of a misdemeanor or Class H or Class I felony, and would like to have your record expunged, contact the Milwaukee criminal defense attorneys of Hart Powell, S.C. at (414) 271-9595 today. You can also contact us using our online form to schedule a confidential consultation about your case.