There are very limited circumstances in which a criminal record may be expunged in Missouri. Let’s divide it up into three categories.
(1) Arrest History
610.122, RSMo, governs when an arrest record may be expunged. An individual can have a record of his/her arrest erased if all of the following criteria are met: (A) There is no probable cause, at the time of the action to expunge, to believe the individual committed the offense; (B) no charges were pursued as a result of the arrest; (C) the subject of the arrest has no prior/subsequent misdemeanor/felony convictions; (D) the subject of the arrest did not receive a suspended imposition of sentence (“SIS”); and (E) no civil action is pending related to the arrest or the records sought to be expunged.
Because all of these requirements need to be met, this is often difficult to accomplish. The most problematic elements to meet are the lack of probable cause element and the SIS element. Probable cause is a flexible standard in the law, so it is difficult to make such a showing. Moreover, criminal defendants often take a SIS (which, to be reductionist, is like probation), so they are precluded from expungement under the plain language of this statute.
(2) Expungement of Minor in Possession (alcohol)
311.326, RSMo, is controlling. Like with expunging an arrest record, there are a number of requirements that need to be met: (A) It’s been one year plus since turning 21; (B) you have not previously expunged a MIP; (C) no other alcohol-related convictions; (D) you are not a commercial driver (e.g., a truck driver); (E) you were not operating a commercial vehicle at the time of the underlying offense.
Then the statute adds the following disclaimer articulating the implications of such an expungement —
“Nothing contained in this section shall prevent courts or other state officials from maintaining such records as are necessary to ensure that an individual receives only one expungement pursuant to this section.”
(3) Expungement of first alcohol-related driving offense
577.054, RSMo, is the pertinent provision. In keeping with our theme, there is a list of requirements: (A) ten years of elapsed since the incident; (B) it was your first such offense; (C) the offense wasn’t a felony; (D) you’ve had no alcohol-related convictions since that time; and (E) there have been or currently exist no other alcohol-related suspensions against your license by the MO Department of Revenue.
Based on the limited circumstances expungement is permissible, and the amount of requirements that need to be met in these limited circumstances, it is fair to say Missouri Law is not lenient when it comes to criminal history.
(On a related note, it is also worth mentioning that the Missouri Governor has the authority to grant pardons pursuant to Article IV, Section 7 of the Missouri Constitution. Prisoners can apply for such a pardon by following 217.800, RSMo. Because this is not very common, and doesn’t deal with expungement, one shouldn’t spend too much time with this.)