What You Need to Know about Expungement

The expungement law in Wisconsin refers to a person’s criminal record being “wiped clean”.  This law is controlled by §973.015 of the Wisconsin Statutes.  The law says that if a person is under the age of 25 at the time that they commit the crime, and if the person is convicted of a crime that qualifies for expungement, then the defendant may make a request at the time of sentencing that their criminal record be expunged upon the completion of their sentence.

As of January of 2016, criminal offenses which qualify for expungement are those offenses for which the maximum penalty is 6 years of imprisonment or less, except for Operating While Intoxicated (OWI) and OWI related offenses.  In addition, in order for a Judge to grant expungement, the Judge must make a finding that expungement will benefit the defendant and that society will not be harmed by expunging the defendant’s record.

Many people do not understand the full meaning and effect that expungement has when granted by the Judge.  Expungement does not mean that the conviction never occurred or is taken away.  Expungement under this Wisconsin Statute simply means that the record of conviction is erased from court records.  However, the criminal conviction may still show up on certain criminal background checks.  For instance, if you are convicted of a felony and have that felony expunged, that conviction will still show up on a background check through the Department of Justice if you are applying for a conceal and carry permit or if you are trying to purchase a firearm.  Which means that even with an expunged felony, you are not allowed to own or possess a firearm.

However, expungement can still be a useful tool to help young people who have made a mistake which resulted in a criminal conviction.  Many employers, volunteer organizations, neighbors, friends, and family members check the Wisconsin Circuit Court Access Program (CCAP) to look at people’s background.  Expungement will erase a person’s record from CCAP which can help people to obtain good jobs and avoid embarrassment.