Sometimes a teenage misadventure can become an embarrassment in adulthood. Occasionally personal indiscretions become public after the authorities become involved. In situations such as these, individuals can ask officials to expunge, seal or alter public records of the incident. The law governing alterations of public documents varies widely from state to state, with Kansas permitting expungement even of certain convictions.
What Is Expungement or Sealing?
In most states, sealing records prevents the majority of people from accessing the official information, while expungement usually is a process that permits public records to be destroyed and the incident regarded as if it never happened. Under Kansas law, expunging a record merely hides it from public purview—the document is not destroyed. However, the information would not show up during most routine background checks that potential employers conduct, and people could legally answer "no" when asked if they have ever been accused or convicted of a crime.
However, there is no guarantee that information never will be revealed. In fact, law enforcement agencies and immigration authorities have broad access to expunged records, and judges may grant access to other officials who prove a valid need to review the records.
Who Is Eligible?
Most anyone who was arrested and not convicted, or convicted of a misdemeanor or lower-level felony, is eligible for expungement in Kansas:
- Those with juveniles criminal histories may seek expungement once they reach the age of 23 or once two years have elapsed since the final discharge of the case. Juvenile records will not be expunged in the case of convictions of various serious crimes such as murder.
- Those who were arrested or charged but not convicted can ask that records of the arrest and any court proceedings stemming from the arrest be expunged.
- Individuals convicted of misdemeanors, infractions or minor felonies such as forgery or perjury can ask for expungement three years following the final resolution of the case, including any sentence or probation. Those convicted of more serious felonies must wait five years after final resolution to file, and those convicted of extremely serious crimes such as rape or murder are not eligible for expungement.
What Information Is Required?
Pursuing an expungement in Kansas is a legally complex procedure with several required forms and documents—it is advisable to have an attorney review the paperwork to ensure that everything is in proper order. The documents must be filed in the district court for the county in which the case was handled.
Information about the conviction or arrest—including the date; name of the arresting agency; and the petitioner's name, gender and birth date—must be submitted as part of the petition for expungement. A court hearing will be held, and witnesses can be called. The judge will order conviction records expunged if he finds that two years have lapsed since any felony conviction, that no charges are pending and that the petitioner's behavior warrants expungement. A judge will expunge arrest records if he finds that there was no probable cause for the arrest, the arrest was due to mistaken identify or if there was no conviction in the case.
Though it does not result in convictions being sealed or expunged, a pardon is a possibility, though its impact is negligible in Kansas. Civil and political rights, such as voting and serving in public office, are automatically restored once the sentence is served, and a pardon does nothing to erase the record of the conviction. Nevertheless, those interested in pardons can apply through the state Prison Review Board.
Why Contact an Attorney?
This article is a general overview of Kansas expungement law. The process is legally complicated, and individuals should refer to a local attorney for questions about individual cases.