Missouri Legislature sends bar-drafted, criminal-record-sealing bill to governor

Some previously convicted individuals are one step closer to having their criminal records sealed after completion of a sentence thanks to bar-drafted legislation the Missouri Legislature passed Wednesday. The measure, SB 588, passed the House by a vote of 143-12 and the Senate voted 25-7 in favor, sending the bill to the governor for consideration. Supporters of the bill believe it will help reformed criminals get jobs.

“This bill works to improve the lives of Missouri citizens by helping those who’ve made mistakes get back on track,” said Erik Bergmanis of Camdenton, 2015-16 president of The Missouri Bar. “It does so by allowing those previously convicted of nonviolent, low-level offenses to petition a judge to seal their criminal record in order to aid them in seeking and obtaining employment.”

Sen. Bob Dixon, sponsor of the bill, told lawyers at the 2016 Missouri Bar Spring Committee Meetings that he was excited to see movement on the legislation.

“We would essentially be putting in place a framework so that someone would not have a criminal record the rest of their life if they’d shoplifted or stolen a candy bar,” Dixon said at the event last week. “I presented that to the Senate as the ultimate economic development and jobs bill.”

A judge can grant a petition to seal the individual’s criminal records if the prosecutor does not object within 30 days, and the petitioner has:

  • an eligible offense,
  • has not been found guilty of another offense,
  • has no pending charges and
  • has met all the conditions of his or her sentence.

Under the measure, a criminal record will be sealed seven years after a felony conviction and three years after a misdemeanor offense, reducing the amount of time someone has to wait to petition from 20 years for felonies and 10 years for a misdemeanor.

The measure protects public safety by ensuring the prosecutor is notified when petitions to seal criminal records are filed. Additionally, it is only available to those convicted of nonviolent, low-level offenses who have not reoffended. For example, some felonies, including Class A or dangerous felonies, registered sex offenders, offenses involving a death, felony assault, domestic assault and kidnapping, cannot be sealed under the change.

The measure was proposed by prosecutors, public defenders and the defense bar and was drafted by the state bar’s Criminal Law Drafting Subcommittee.

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