How to Get a Criminal Record Expunged
It’s complicated, but can be done under certain circumstances within Wisconsin law.
Danasia Robbins has always wanted to be a nurse. Growing up, she helped care for her grandma by making sure she took her medication and accompanying her to doctor visits. It’s in her nature to help people, she said.
But Robbins can’t realize her dreams until she fixes a mistake from her past.
Robbins has a charge of petty theft on her record. At the time, she was hanging with an old friend from high school when she got caught, she explained.
Soon she’ll be interviewing for nursing programs, and she’d like to have the charge expunged from her record.
The criteria for expungement
- At the time of the offense, you must be 24 years or younger.
- The maximum penalty for imprisonment must have been six years or less. If it is a misdemeanor, it must be in Class A, B or C. If it is a felony, it must be in Class H or I.
- At the time of sentencing, the judge must have stated on the record that you are eligible for expungement.
- Before applying for expungement, the sentence has to be fully and successfully completed.
To reach all four criteria is rare, Morrisey said. At the time of the sentencing, a judge is punishing someone for committing a crime and is not always thinking of that person’s future.
Morrisey, who was previously a public defender in Milwaukee, said that during sentencing, she would request that the judge for expungement.
“If I’m asking for it, I’ve determined that they [my client] is eligible,” she said.
If a person is eligible for expungement, then they need to petition the court to ask that the conviction be expunged. Morrisey explained how the expungement process works.
The expungement processes
1. If you were sentenced to a term of probation, then you must complete it successfully, meaning that you were discharged and completed all conditions.
2. If you were sentenced to a term of imprisonment, followed by extended supervision, then you must successfully complete the terms and conditions of your extended supervision.
4. All restitution and court costs must be paid in full. If there is an outstanding balance, expungement will be denied.
5. You must submit an expungement request in person or by mail to the Criminal Clerk of Court’s Office at the following address:
Milwaukee County Criminal Division: Safety Building
821 W. State St., Room 117
Milwaukee, WI 53233
You will be asked to provide your name and date of birth.
6. Note that there is no timeline or deadline in place. However, the Post-Conviction Office will only communicate via mail and requires a valid and secure mailing address.
Maddie Bitto is a second-year law student at Marquette University. She currently works for the Milwaukee Justice Center Mobile Legal Clinic.
Bitto said that the Wisconsin expungement law is tough. A common misconception is that many people believe that the charge will come off their record given enough time. That is not the case. People need to go through the expungement process.
“What’s heartbreaking is that one thing can follow someone for a really long time,” she said.
Having a record can prevent someone from gainful employment or safe housing, Bitto said.
If someone isn’t eligible for expungement, it’s possible to apply for a pardon if there is a felony conviction. Expungement seals the record so no one can see it. A pardon doesn’t vacate the sentence, but it reinstates one’s civil rights, Bitto said.
As for Robbins, she advises people to think about their future before committing a crime and to hang with the right crowds.