Closing and Expunging Criminal Records in Missouri

When a person is arrested or convicted of a crime, the documentation gets filed into what is known as a criminal record. These records are available to the public through what is known as a background check, which is often run by employers deciding whether to hire a job applicant. Criminal history records are maintained by each individual state whereas Criminal Background Checks in Missouri are administered by any organization that needs to find out about past indiscretions you may have within the state. The Missouri State Highway Patrol (MSHP) Criminal Records Division conducts all background checks for records in the state of Missouri.

Closure of Arrest Records

When an arrest does not lead to a conviction—that is, the case is dropped, dismissed, the accused is found not guilty or the imposition of a sentence is suspended by the court—then the arrest record will subsequently be closed. Closing a history of arrests, which some jurisdictions refer to as sealing criminal records, means that the public can no longer access information about those arrests. Sealing a record is not the same as erasing a record. Though search results obtained from the MSHP Criminal History Site will only show public arrest records from the last 30 days, a full history of arrests can be obtained through a fingerprint based search. One instance in which a fingerprint search would be requested is for the processing of an application for a legal or medical license.

Expunging Criminal Records

In order for a criminal record to be erased altogether, it must be expunged. In Missouri, an expunged record is either destroyed completely or it is blacked out, if the record book is of a permanent nature. The state of Missouri removes all electronic files of an expunged arrest or conviction, and submits a request to the FBI to expunge the record from its federal files.

Until recently, the only convictions that could be expunged under Missouri law were first time driving while intoxicated convictions that were more than ten-years old. Last July, the governor of Missouri approved House Bill 1647, which extended the types of convictions and arrests eligible for expungement in Missouri; the bill came into effect on August 28, 2012. A person can expunge one or more offenses by filing a petition listing each eligible offense.

Expunging Arrest Records

An arrest record can only be expunged if it was based on false information and there was no probable cause to believe that the person in question committed the offense. It must be established that no charges are going to be pressed pursuant to the arrest and that no civil action is currently underway as a result of the arrest. As mentioned above, an arrest for which an individual’s imposition of sentence was suspended by the court will be closed to the public; however, these arrests are not eligible for expungement, because the individual’s future actions can still affect whether or not the arrest will result in a conviction, i.e., in the imposition of a sentence. Lastly, a person is only eligible to have an arrest record expunged if he has no other misdemeanor or felony convictions.

Expunging Convictions

A petition may be filed to expunge criminal records for certain felony convictions that are more than twenty years old and misdemeanor convictions that are more than ten years old. An individual seeking to expunge a record must not have committed any other felony or misdemeanor offenses between the conviction in question and the time of the petition. To file a petition, a person must have completed any sentence of imprisonment and any period of probation or parole.

Offenses that may be expunged include: felonies or misdemeanors involving fraudulent economic activity, such as trying to pay with a bad check or credit card, and B or C class misdemeanors, which are misdemeanors that carry a penalty punishment of no more than six months in county jail.

To request a record expungement, a person must fill out and file a petition, listing as a defendant any agency or person who has possession of the criminal records in question, including the Missouri State Highway Patrol and the prosecutor who argued the case. The petitioner must include all personal information requested, such as sex, race, driver’s license number and place of residence, as well as information regarding the arrest and conviction.