One out of three working age Americans have some kind of criminal conviction making it difficult to find a job, go to school, or even secure a loan or mortgage. Although many states across the country are working to change expungement laws allowing more ex-offenders to get a fresh start, in Wisconsin, expungement laws continue to limit who gets a second chance.
Under current Wisconsin law, expungement is limited to minor criminal offenses for defendants who were under the age of 25 when the offense was committed. The maximum punishment for the offense cannot exceed 6 years – excluding most felonies from consideration – and there must be no history of past felonies. Perhaps the most confounding is that unless a judge makes the defendant eligible for expungement at the time of sentencing, the defendant will not be eligible to try to expunge the record.
Many believe the current process of expungement can be improved to help those who have fulfilled their sentences to move on:
- First, deciding whether a defendant is eligible for expungement should be determined after he or she has served the sentence. At the time of sentencing, judges have limited information about a defendant, including their post-sentencing behavior. Furthermore, defendants that are not well-represented by experienced legal counsel, may not realize that eligibility for expungement must be granted at sentencing.
- Following the completion of a sentence, many do not know the process to follow in order to have their record expunged. To further improve the expungement process, it is important to ensure that defendants have the knowledge they need to obtain an expungement so they do not continue to suffer the consequences of having a criminal record long after their sentence is served. Young people particularly often do not understand the legal options they have to overcome the barriers of a criminal record, which can negatively impact their entire life.
- Expungement data speaks volumes regarding disparities between those who have and have not. Many who are socioeconomically disadvantaged, young, and minorities fail to secure expungements that could get their lives back on track when compared to those more economically or otherwise advantaged. Disseminating expungement data throughout the justice system – to attorneys, judges, juvenile justice and other advocacy groups – paints a needed picture of how the system is failing many Americans. Knowing what disparities and biases exist can lead to improvements in the expungement process overall.
Get Help with the Wisconsin Expungement Process
If you have questions regarding the Wisconsin criminal records expungement process or criminal pardons, contact the Waukesha criminal defense lawyers of Andrew C. Ladd for a free initial consultation to discuss your case at 262-542-3900.