On July 1, 2012, a new law will take place in Tennessee that governs expungements of criminal convictions. This is good news for individuals that have been convicted of certain criminal offenses, as they now may be able to have those convictions removed from their record.
Previously, convictions of any kind could not be expunged. Criminal charges could be, but not convictions. The two are not the same. Criminal charges include arrests, charges that were dismissed, or charges where no true bill was found by the grand jury (essentially, the grand jury determines that there is not enough evidence to indict). A conviction is different than a charge. A conviction is a judgment of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, either through a guilty plea by the defendant, or a finding of guilt by either the judge or jury following trial.
Not all convictions can be expunged with this new law–only nonviolent offenses. The law defines a nonviolent offense as:
(A) The offense does not have as an element the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the person or property of another,
(B) The offense is not a felony offense that, by its nature, involves a substantial risk that physical force against the person or property of another may be used in the course of committing the offense;
(C) The offense does not involve the use of a firearm;
(D) The offense is not a sex offense for which the offender is required to register as a sexual offender or violent sexual offender under title 40, chapter 39, part 2; and
(E) The offense did not result in causing a victim or victims to sustain a loss of twenty-five thousand dollars ($25,000) or more.
There are additional requirements in applying for an expungement. The conviction must be the defendant’s first offense. He or she must not have any other convictions. The defendant must have completed the sentence for which they were convicted, whether probation, jail time, or both, and fulfilled all requirements of the sentence including payment of court costs, fines, and probation fees.
Under the new law, the defendant would file a petition for an expungement in the court where he or she was convicted. The district attorney would have 60 days to respond with recommendations, such as agreeing or objecting to the expungement. Both the defendant and the district attorney may provide evidence to the court in support of their position, and the court would then make a ruling either granting or denying the application. If the defendant is denied, he or she must wait two years to file another petition. If a defendant has not had a petition granted after 10 years of eligibility, their petition will be automatically granted.
Patrick Stegall is a Memphis criminal attorney specializing in criminal matters of all types, including expungements. If you would like to see if your Tennessee criminal conviction can be expunged, contact Mr. Stegall at firstname.lastname@example.org.