We get this question a lot. And because Idaho strives for transparency when it comes to access to public records, the short answer is probably forever. As disappointing as this may sound, it doesn't mean you're stuck. There are several things that can be done to “clean up” a criminal record and help mitigate the life-long consequences of a crime. This article addresses what can be done and how our office can help.
Length of Stay of Criminal Records
Unlike in some other states, any crimes charged against someone in Idaho will appear on their record. Even if charges were brought and then later dropped, they will still appear online. A simple search can be performed by anyone at https://mycourts.idaho.gov/. But just because charges will probably always show on your record, doesn't mean that you can't limit their impact on your life. Below are some of your options when it comes to cleaning up your record in Idaho.
Expunging a Record
When a crime is expunged, it's essentially erased from the system. Although every defendant wants this, expungement in Idaho is very, very rare. Unless you fall into one of these three categories, you are not eligible for expungement:
- You were arrested or served with a criminal summons but were not charged within one year;
- You were acquitted of all offenses arising from an arrest or criminal summons (this does not include cases where the charges were amended or dismissed); or
- The crime you're seeking to expunge is a juvenile offense.
Sealing a Record
Sealing a record does not delete it but prevents the general public from accessing it. Similar to expungement, sealing a record is very rare. Before a court will enter an order redacting or sealing records, it must find one or more of the following:
- That the documents or materials contain highly intimate facts or statements, the publication of which would be highly objectionable to a reasonable person;
- That the documents or materials contain facts or statements that the court finds might be libelous;
- That the documents or materials contain facts or statements, the dissemination or publication of which would reasonably result in economic or financial loss or harm to a person having an interest in the documents or materials, or compromise the security of personnel, records or public property of or used by the judicial department;
- That the documents or materials contain facts or statements that might threaten or endanger the life or safety of individuals; or
- That it is necessary to temporarily seal or redact the documents or materials to preserve the right to a fair trial.
Unfortunately, the fact that a certain conviction is prevent you from obtaining a certain job, loan, license, housing, etc. probably isn't enough to seal a record.
To learn more about sealing a record, visit our Sealing page.
The next best thing to expunging or sealing a record is a withheld judgment. A withheld judgment allows the court to dismiss the case after you've successfully completed everything that the court has ordered you to do (e.g., paid a fine, completed classes or an evaluation, completed probation without any issues, etc.). You only get one withheld judgment in your life in Idaho and it allows you to honestly say that you haven't been convicted of the relevant crime.
While the benefits of a withheld judgment sound great, the process for obtaining one is not so easy. In order to receive one, it must be issued at the time of sentencing, you must successfully complete everything you were ordered to do by the court, and you must go back to the court and formally request that the court dismiss the case after completing probation. Because there's a lot on the line with withheld judgments, they should only be handled by experienced criminal defense attorneys.
To learn more about withheld judgments, visit our Withheld Judgment page or blog article Attention All Withheld Judgment Recipients: Go Back and Get an Order!
Dismissing a Misdemeanor or Felony Under Idaho Code 19-2604
Another option is to seek to have your case retroactively dismissed. This is a great option for someone who did not obtain a withheld judgment at sentencing, has already taken advantage of their one withheld judgment, or is seeking to restore their gun rights. Although there are exceptions, Idaho generally allows a defendant to apply to have their case retroactively dismissed if they show good cause for the dismissal and they successfully completed probation. This means that instead of "guilty," the record will read "dismissed by court."
Like withheld judgments, the process for obtaining a dismissal is not simple. It requires preparing and filing documentation with the court and typically a hearing before the judge. The whole process generally takes 4-8 weeks, and although nothing can ever be guaranteed, our office has a very high success rate in these cases.
Reducing a Felony to a Misdemeanor
The final option is to attempt to reduce your felony to a misdemeanor. Like dismissals, this is also a great option for individuals who have already taken advantage of their withheld judgment or who are seeking to restore their gun rights. To apply for a reduction, you must show that good cause exists for the reduction and successful completion of probation. Although you can still sometimes apply for a dismissal with a probation violation, the likelihood of being granted the reduction decreases.
Call our office today for a free 30-minute consultation on how we can help clean up your criminal record.