Law gives former offenders hope for a second chance

djournal-crime-news3By Lena Mitchell

Daily Journal Corinth Bureau

RIPLEY – About 50 people filled the fellowship hall at Terry Street Church of Christ recently to learn how some people convicted of criminal offenses can get their records cleared.

Corinth attorney Randolph Walker said Mississippi statutes give people who have made a mistake and paid their debt to society a chance at a fresh start.

“Expungement is the term for something you did that is wiped off the record and can’t be used against you,” Walker said. “It doesn’t apply to a federal crime because there is no federal statute, and violent crimes are not eligible.”

Dr. Roland Colom said he invited Walker to make the presentation because so many families are being affected by having someone caught up in the justice system.

“In the past 30 years the criminal justice system has grown from about 300,000 to almost two million,” Colom said. “This may be something that doesn’t affect you directly, but it may affect a family member and we want people to have the information they need.”

Walker reviewed Mississippi statutes – passed and/or amended between 1998 and 2010 – that allow some misdemeanor or felony convictions to be expunged. Some common elements include:

• The person applying for expungement – or expunction – must complete all terms of the sentence, probation if applicable, and pay fines and restitution before applying.

• There is a five-year waiting period after completing terms of the sentence before applying for expungement of a felony, two years for a misdemeanor. However, Walker said when one learns his or her conviction may be eligible for expungement, it is best to consult an attorney as soon as possible.

• The expungement request must be filed in the county in which the case was brought.

• With an expungement one can legally say on job applications that they have no felony conviction.

• The filing fee in Mississippi for an expungement is $150, but that does not include the attorney’s fees to handle the case.

“Sometimes being charged with a crime will prevent you getting a job,” Walker said. “It affects the jobs you can get, professional licenses for beauticians, barbers and many others. Even a case that goes before the grand jury but is dismissed remains on the record unless it is expunged. It is a scar for life.”

lena.mitchell@journalinc.com