Many times, a permanent criminal record is the worst outcome in a criminal case. Even in a felony, probation and other punishments are soon forgotten. But criminal records never go away. Decades later, they affect job searches, professional career choices, family law proceedings, and other important matters.
Fortunately, in 2015, the landscape changed dramatically. Hutchinson felony lawyers now have many more opportunities to erase a criminal past, so more people can truly move on with their lives.
Under this new law, many former felons can have their records sealed between two and five years after they complete their sentences. The law also had a trickle-down effect which many people did not anticipate at the time. Prosecutors are more willing to recommend diversion and deferred sentences, and judges are now more willing to grant full-fledged expunction.
The bottom line is that if you are worried about the effects of a criminal record, or you want to do something about a criminal past, you now have more options than ever before.
Typically, this prosecution alternative is only available in misdemeanors. But Hutchinson felony lawyers may also be able to arrange for pretrial diversion in felony drug possession cases, especially if these cases are in designated drug courts. Prosecutors in these courts often have a better understanding of the nature of these offenses.
Generally, status is never a defense to conduct. Alcoholism is not a defense to DUI, and drug addiction is not a defense to drug possession. However, status is often a mitigating circumstance when it comes to punishment. That’s especially the case if the defendant has a substance abuse problem and is willing to get help.
Situations like this one are tailor-made for pretrial diversion. If the defendant completes some program requirements, like submitting to drug treatment, prosecutors normally dismiss the charges. The arrest record remains, but as outlined below, there are some ways to address that issue.
Stay of Adjudication
If pretrial diversion is not an option, a stay of adjudication is probably on the table. A stay of adjudication means that the McLeod County judge accepts a plea of guilty or no contest, but s/he does not enter a finding of guilt. Instead, the judge defers that part of the plea until after the defendant completes probation. If the defendant successfully completes probation, the judge dismisses the case.
Sometimes, the judge will overlook a technical violation here and there, such as a failure to change address or a missed supervisory appointment. But for the most part, the probation record must be spotless. If there is any infraction, the judge may proceed to adjudication at that point, and the deal is off.
Additionally, at the probation violation hearing, the judge may generally sentence the defendant to anything up to the maximum prison sentence, and there is little or nothing that a Hutchinson felony lawyer can do to prevent that outcome.
Those two things are the major stay of adjudication cons. But on the other side, there are some very significant pros. Above all, the defendant could emerge from this mess without a criminal conviction. True, the arrest record remains. But most employers, landlords, and other people who perform background checks only care about convictions. Additionally, if the prior arrest comes up, an explanation like “I hired a Hutchinson felony lawyer and the lawyer took care of it” usually puts any doubts to bed.
Petition for Expungement
A few cases, like sex crimes and domestic violence crimes, are never expungable. But under the expanded expungement law, a long list of felonies are eligible for full record sealing. That includes both conviction and arrest records.
However, expungement is not automatic, even if the defendant meets the minimum qualifications. The judge can take a number of factors into account before making a decision, including:
- Severity of the offense,
- Any steps toward rehabilitation (e.g. overcoming a substance abuse issue),
- Reason for the expungement request,
- Community service and other involvement,
- Victim impact,
- Whether the victim was a minor, and
- Any mitigating circumstances.
That last bullet is particularly important. It can make or break your expunction petition. A Hutchinson felony lawyer should not re-litigate the case, but your attorney should re-emphasize those points from the trial which favor reduced punishment.
Reach Out to Experienced Attorneys
A criminal conviction does not need to stain your record forever. For a free consultation with an experienced Hutchinson felony lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We routinely handle matters in McLeod County and nearby jurisdictions.