Pima County hosts free legal clinic, employees help people seal criminal records

Published: Aug. 22, 2023 at 5:56 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (13 News) - Every month, Pima County Public Defense Services hosts a free legal clinic. This month, employees are helping people seal their criminal records for a better future.

After completing all sentence requirements, including paying fines and fees, an individual can file a petition to get their record sealed, but not everyone is eligible.

Violent or sexual offenses will not be sealed, and even if a record is sealed, they still count as a prior conviction. The biggest benefit for folks, however, is getting better opportunities for work.

“It can still be used by law enforcement [and] it still counts as a prior conviction for those purposes,” said Dean Brault. Brault is the director of the Public Defense Services team.

“But it does give them the opportunity to have their offense not be visible when they’re looking for jobs and things like that.”

Sealing a record helps with more than finding a job. A person doesn’t have to disclose their conviction on other applications for housing or a loan, but there are some restrictions one must follow depending on the context of their record.

Sealing records in Arizona is still rather new, with legislation just implemented at the end of last year. But the records must be under the control of a criminal justice entity, like law enforcement agencies or the courts.

“This is a brand-new thing,” Brault said. “It’s not like years ago we were telling people they can get their records sealed if they paid off all their fines and complete their sentence.”

“We didn’t know this legislation was going to go into effect and this was going to be an available option until recently.”

Despite the sudden move to allow people to petition to have their cases sealed, the Public Defense team has already helped hundreds of people in the last few months get a chance at a new chapter in life.

To learn more about how to seal a record or rules and procedures related to sealing a record, click here.

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